Okay, so in my last playthrough of Psychonauts I started noticing tons of little details and some larger plot points that I didn’t catch the first time around. I decided to list some of them out, it’s a really boggling amount of work put into this game and it’s fun to analyze! There’s going to be some gushing (and maybe a bit of theorizing and personal interpretation), but hopefully you guys will find something interesting from it!
I’ll also link to a few other posts that people have made, because they’re awesome.
Awright, here we go:
Oleander and Raz
- Coach Oleander’s treehouse classroom has some propeller thingies on the roof. From far away, it looks like the propeller cap we see his younger self wearing. His classroom also has some children’s drawings hanging on the walls. That’s adorable.
- Hey! Speaking of Oleander, I realized something awesome. When you go through Basic Braining at the beginning of the game, a lot of the challenges involve climbing, tightropes, swinging from things and jumping, you know, basic video game fare. Raz is one of the only campers who is able to complete it. Well, aside from being the main character, there’s another reason for his success: We find out later that he was an acrobat. Of COURSE that level would be a breeze for him! The whole time you do it, Oleander is also calling you slow, and trying to get you to go faster. It’s a little annoying, but it’s easy to ignore.
- Fast forward to the end of the game. The main challenge of the Meat Circus involves extremely difficult platforming. You know, Raz’s acrobatics. It also involves Little Oly screaming for help, and if you’re too slow to save him, you both suffer the consequences. The last level matches the first, you have to use your acrobatic abilities while Oleander’s trying to get you to move faster.
- This also fits into an even bigger theme. At the end of the game, Ford Cruller says something along the lines of “It’s your heart, not your mind that makes you a great Psychonaut. We didn’t give him that, it was something he was taught long before he got here.” HEY, GUESS WHAT ELSE HE WAS TAUGHT BEFORE HE GOT THERE? Acrobatics! It gives him a huuuge advantage in all aspects of the game. Not just in the physical sense, but he was also taught to trust himself, to persevere, get up again when he fell, etc etc. Raz’s dad DID prepare him to face anything. While the other campers have a tendency to give up, Raz overachieves in every way and works even harder when things get difficult. His physical, mental and spiritual strength were all there before he even got to the camp, and they’re what make him special. And it’s clear right from the start of the game.
- Hey, did you know that the emotional baggage inside of the mental levels have different crying depending on the mind it’s in? That’s because you’re listening to that specific character cry. Sasha has long, slow sobs, Fred whimpers and mutters, Boyd blubbers, etc. The pitch is changed higher and lower on some of the bags, but there’s always one that sounds spot-on with it’s corresponding character. It’s a fun detail! It’s easy to miss the emotional baggage in the Meat Circus, considering everything else that’s going on. But when you DO find one, you get this creepy little detail: Oleander and Razputin’s cries overlapping each other.
- Oleander is really, really passionate about being a psychic. He wrote the pamphlet that inspired Raz to run away to camp, and he acts like being a Psychonaut is the only thing worth living for. And at first it just seems like he’s just eccentric, but considering his background.. it really is the only thing he had. The Psychonauts were the only government organization that didn’t judge him by his physical limitations. No wonder he was so frustrated by the lazy campers, wasting their gifts and fussing over relationships instead.
- Theory time! Oleander’s mind is the first place you see Mental Cobwebs, but without the item to collect them, the player is supposed to move on and ignore them until later. When you come back to get them, there’s one that’s covering a tiny hole in the wall. Inside of it, you find the Memory Reel calledOleander’s Shame. By this point we know Oleander is a bad guy, so it’s easy to think that he hid it there on purpose. BUT BACK UP A SECOND! Mental Cobwebs are supposed to be in places the the character hasn’t thought about in a long time. What if Oleander had forgotten that he’d been kicked out of the army? Maybe his peers never suspected him, because he believed his own lie so deeply that he deluded himself into thinking it was the truth?The campers and Whispering Rocks
- It is really easy to miss all of the plot lines that are happening among the campers. Something happens to them very time you go through a major plot point like a level. There are complete animated cutscenes you can miss, just by not being in the right place at the right time, or not talking to someone after something unrelated happens. Examples being things like this, this or this. My favorite camper plot is watching wimpy Maloof and Mikhail team up and give the bullies a taste of their own medicine.
- The history of the camp and the former town of Shaky Claim can be found written in a timeline on a big stump in the parking lot. Once you read it, it’s easier to notice the signs of the forgotten town that are still hidden around. There’s a couple of tombstones on a hill, mine shafts, an old-timey car that’s been overtaken by a tree, a fridge in a cave, and a rickety old shack. A lot of the scavenger hunt items seem like they’re from Shaky Claim’s heyday, too.
- Speaking of the scavenger hunt. At first it just seems like some padding to make the game longer to complete, just a sidequest to waste time. But I realized later that it helps prepare you for the item hunting in the later mental levels. It helps the player learn to search every nook and cranny, which helps you later in massive figment hunts, which helps you level up faster and be better prepared for levels like the meat circus. Completing the scavenger hunt also leads to Ford giving you a HUGE level upgrade. I bet you anything that he planned the scavenger hunt for that exact purpose.Sasha and Milla
- There is so much detail put into Sasha and Milla’s contrasting personalities and themes. For example, finding Sasha takes a lot of investigating, until you finally find him hiding out alone in his dark, underground lab. When you go to Milla’s level, the loudspeakers are sending messages about her class, and you find her out on the dock, sitting in the sunlight and surrounded by children.
- While there’s a lot of blatant stuff showing how they’re different, there are a few things they have in common too. They both handle the tragedies in their lives by suppressing them. Sasha’s is pretty obvious, with the gigantic box holding in his memories and whatnot. But Milla covers up her past too. Beyond the bouncy music and party chatter, you can hear emotional baggage crying. And who can forget the awful nursery room and the toy box full of nightmares? It’s even worse when you go into her level a second time, after all the campers are gone. It’s so empty. The dancers populating the party all feel one dimensional and fake. It’s sad and a little unnerving.Thorney Towers and the Inmates
- During the Brain
tumblrTumbler experiment, you find the confusing Memory Reel called The World Shall Taste my Eggs. A lot of people have noticed that it’s actually a really loose summary of the whole plot of the game, but the entire Tumbler level is too. Raz hatches from an egg, just like the brain thing. He travels through a forest and passes a giant bathtub with “Oblangata” written on the side, just like the lake. On the other side of the tub, you find a tall, twisting structure with an observatory at the top where Loboto is conducting his experiments. The building is surrounded in thorns and thick belt straps. It’s Thorney Towers! The straps represent the straps of a straight jacket. Around the base of the tower, you also find four very unusual figments: A basket of milk bottles, a flower, a bull, and Napoleon’s hat.
- There are only two mental levels in the game that don’t have any traditional censors: Lungfishopolis and The Milkman Conspiracy. Instead, you have some sneaky organizations trying to take down something that’s not supposed to be there. In Boyd’s case, it’s the G-men versus the milkman; in Linda’s case it’s rebels against Kochamora. Both of them were hypnotized by Oleander, and his influence blended in almost perfectly. It seems like they’re supposed to be there, but Boyd and Linda’s minds are still fighting against it.
- Boyd is one of the only characters that you can successfully set on fire. He yells about government LSD tests. The Rainbow Squirts are flammable, too.
- I noticed that in the real world, Gloria has a potted plant clinging to the bottom of her dress. Just like the other audience pots in the garden, it has a face drawn on it… which looks suspiciously like Jasper. It has the same nose, grinning open mouth, etc. Even while she’s doing her fake performances in the garden, she’s still dragging around her inner critic.
- Sometimes just standing next to a character will cause them to start talking, without any prompting. In fact, sometimes the prompting will make them stop. My favorite instance of this is in Edgar’s mind, if you stand next to any of the painter dog’s artwork, they start talking about it and what they think of it. “Eugh, this painting’s like my grandpa’s last year alive. One terrible stroke on top of another.”
- It’s impossible to lift Edgar in the real world with telekinesis. He just says, “Nobody lifts Edgar Teglee!” I tried this out in his mental world, and whatta ya know, you can! I dunno if this was a mistake or not.
- The beefy, overpowered censors only show up in Fred, Gloria and Edgar’s minds. Maybe their censor production was increased in an attempt to fight their madness?
- There’s a statue of the founder, Houston Thorney, in the fountain in front of the asylum. He has a similar body type to Sheegor, and I’ve seen a few theories that they could be related. Another odd thing about the fountain is that it’s where you find the last scavenger hunt item, the gold watch. It could be the watch that we see Oleander use to hypnotize Boyd.
- After reaching the upper levels of Thorney Towers, go back down to the bottom and Fred will be awake again, and sane. For some reason he still doesn’t use his arms to pick things up, and he walks with Napoleon’s tall strides. I tried using the confusion grenades on him to see what would happen, and got one of the SADDEST responses. He could see that battlefield again and he sounded defeated and scared all over again. And then it went away and he was fine.
- Similarly, using grenades on Edgar while he’s in his own mind causes him to stop, look around and ask “Where AM I?”, like he’s suddenly realizing that he’s not in the asylum anymore. I’m really confused about how aware these characters are of their own minds.
- In the Collective Unconscious, some of the doors into people’s minds are shaped different. Edgar’s is a picture frame, Boyd’s is a milk bottle, Raz’s looks like the caravan, Sasha’s door has target sights, and Milla’s has some weird groovy details.
Some details other people noticed
- There’s these really neat stumps around the campfire. Also, if you stand on the stage and press the interaction button, Raz will recite the introduction speech.
- Knives noticed that Sasha and Milla seem to be perfect personifications of the right and left sides of the brain, and show how effective the two working together can be.
- There’s a safeguard to keep you from getting into the minds of the young campers. There’s another one when you try to get into Crispin Whytehead’s mind at the insane asylum, with a little note from Loboto telling Oleander to keep out of his lackey’s head. I want to know how he managed to do that.
- Fred’s mind is recursive.
ffff I’m sure I’m forgetting a TON OF OTHER STUFF, but this is way too long already so yay here ya go