Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin Review (PlayStation 4)
Psychonauts always presented a fun world to play in, but it’s been quite a while since we had anything substantial to interact with in that universe. Psychonauts 2 is thankfully coming, but it still feels quite a ways away and with such a gap in between, it leaves a craving for something to sate the palate while we wait on Tim Schafer and Double Fine to deliver on the anticipated sequel. Thankfully, Double Fine has us covered with Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin. This title puts us behind the eyes of Raz in a VR puzzle adventure. Rhombus of Ruin is short, but it does well as a VR game, a reminder of the colorful quirk many of us like about the Psychonauts world and a teaser of what’s coming next.
Rhombus of Ruin picks up right where the first Psychonauts left off. After becoming an agent of the psychic group established by the government that we know as the Psychonauts, Raz is finally off on his first assignment. Truman Zanotto, Grand Head of the Psychonauts and father of Raz’s girlfriend Lili, has been kidnapped and it’s up to the Psychonauts to find and rescue him. Joining Raz and Lili are the fun loving and extravagant Milla, the strict and stalwart Sasha and the regimental former baddie Coach Olleander. The Psychonauts aren’t far on the trail to Truman before they find themselves plunging towards an underwater base in the Rhombus of Ruin: An area of the ocean as mysterious and deadly as two Bermuda Triangles.
As a VR game, much of Rhombus of Ruin takes place from the perspective of Raz. Often confined to one place for one reason or another, players use Raz’s psychic powers to interact with the environments in a myriad of ways and solve puzzles to either discover more clues or move forward on the mission to save Raz’s friends and Truman. Clairvoyance allows Raz to spring his consciousness from body to body to get different perspectives on the room while other powers like Incinerate, Psi-Poke, Psi-Blast, and Telekinesis allows Raz to directly interact with and manipulate objects in the room. The use of VR means interacting with something is as simple as looking directly at it and activating whichever power you need. It makes for some clever first-person puzzle-solving in the quirky context of the Psychonauts lore. It jumps in a little hot, but it also does a pretty commendable job of getting players unfamiliar with the first game up to speed.
Though you start with access to all of Raz’s psychic toolkit and a pretty good guide on how to use each power, an early event cuts off access to most of Raz’s more powerful abilities, forcing him to make use of only a few of them. Throughout the game, Raz slowly gains access of all of his powers back through the help of his fellow agents. You start with Clairvoyance and visual puzzles and exploration, but it isn’t long before you’re burning wooden boxes with Incinerate or using Telekinesis to push and pull distant levers. It’s in this way that the game slowly builds the complexity of the problems and doesn’t overburden players with having to using everything in Raz’s psychic repertoire all at once.
The environments and characters are looking great as well. Without giving too much away, the Rhombus of Ruin is exactly what you might expect out of a fantastical Bermuda Triangle spoof. Outside of the mysterious installation in which the captive Truman Zanotto is held, the ocean floor is littered with planes, trains, and automobiles, quite literally, from multiple eras. It’s a pretty amusing place to explore and getting a look at everything from various angles thanks to Clairvoyance is an enjoyable romp in of itself. Add to this that nearly everybody from the original Psychonauts has returned to deliver their voices for the characters and lend some extra fun and exposition to the whole experience. Even without that, it’s also just kind of fun to hear what Raz has to say about things when you interact with them.
The only real issue with Rhombus of Ruin comes from how short it is versus its pacing. Rhombus of Ruin is around a 4-6 hour romp from beginning to end. As stated before, you lose access to most of Raz’s powers and gradually gain them back one by one. The problem is that once you’ve got Raz’s full repertoire back, it doesn’t feel very long before the end credits are rolling. Though many of the puzzles were good leading up to that full-power moment, it doesn’t offer a great amount of opportunity where you get to use everything you’ve learned before you’re done. It would have been cool to have a little more time or a few extra puzzles where we could have put the full extent of Raz’s abilities into action.
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is an unexpectedly good thing for what is essentially a teaser for Psychonauts 2. It has some great moments and leaves some tasty bread crumbs for what to expect going into Double Fine’s much anticipated sequel, but it’s also a genuinely enjoyable offering for VR in general. The puzzles are fun, the environments are fantastic to observe and the Psychonauts cast does a great job in bringing the whole thing together with a colorful and amusing bow.
This review was completed using a digital copy of Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.