A notable Roger Ebert quote states it’s not what a movie is about, but how it is about it. Pscychonauts 2 summarizes that statement by distilling mental health down to a young adult, Tim Burton-esque world that, in execution, betters Pixar’s Inside Out, which attempted a similar concept.
Psychonauts 2 deals in multiple personality orders, love, alcoholism, self-doubt, and fear. More than hero Raz running through levels solving these problems, Psychonauts 2 designs everything around them in imaginative, intelligent ways. Although filled with superfluous combat, Raz’s journey into the the actual Psychonauts organization moves with a splendid expediency, suggesting the urgency, if allowing for exploration to find pun-based mental blocks like emotional baggage – literal suitcases and hat boxes.
Is it a grandiose, genre-pushing videogame? No, because the considerable, well-wrapped narrative still involves punching things and bouncing on other things. At times, Psychonauts 2 doesn’t do much of that well, but the central thesis, that an empathetic, caring pre-teen can sort out the brain’s mountainous conflicts becomes an inspiring, considered thematic success.
Raz is infinitely good, but not without problems himself, primarily those of family. Psychonauts 2 hooks a CIA-like conspiracy thriller around Raz’s own past, so he’s not blindly following theatrical heroics. He’s a wonderful character, nuanced and sure of his abilities, even as he flails against ever greater threats. Raz wins, not because of his fantasy-blended supernatural skills, but because he understands the conflicts within others as much as those affecting him.