Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin: Review

Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin has been squeezed out of the brilliant minds at Double Fine with Tim Schafer at the helm. This time around Psychonauts has been given the virtual reality once over where the game has left the relative safety of a third person action adventure game and has settled down into a slower paced first person VR puzzle game. Rhombus of Ruin puts players back into the role of Raz, a fully-fledged member of the Psychonauts (an elite group of international psychic secret agents). Although not a sequel as such, Rhombus of Ruin is set to bridge a gap between the first game and the announced Psychonauts 2 which is yet to be released.

What we have here is a dedicated Playstation VR title that has been created with fine detail from the Psychonauts universe. Using the PSVR headset you are placed into the footsteps of Raz, however you won't be tethered to him for long. Using a first person perspective you will need to interact with everything you can see on screen to navigate puzzles that prevent you from moving on. Rhombus of Ruin is akin to an old school point and click adventure where the mouse cursor has been replaced with your keen set of eyes within a full three dimensional virtual reality space. Care has been taken to craft playable areas where you can look in every direction, however there's a strange and jarring part of Rhombus of Ruin that keeps your feet nailed to the ground. You won't be doing any walking around the environments to inspect different parts, you are required to use the powers of a Psychonaut to possess the minds of other beings, whether it be other people, animals or other.
The scene is set for the purpose of the game early on where you find out that your colleague Lili's father has been taken captive. Of course it's your job, along with the help of your team to find him and get him back safe and sound. Early on, you're introduced to all of your powers through a tutorial phase but in wonderful cliché fashion, soon your powers are stripped of you when your air ship crashes and you're introduced to a kind of Kryptonite called Psilirium. Your friends have also been captured and now you will need to work through puzzling areas in order to gain their help with returning your abilities and powers.

The puzzles won't make you feel like you need to bang your head against a wall, but there are some that are head scratchers that will need you to start thinking outside the box. Looking at Rhombus of Ruin as a VR puzzle game I can applaud it for its ability to challenge your sense as well as keeping the game and story flowing.
The game play has a way of alienating you as a player. By this I mean that I often just felt like a bystander when it came to getting through the levels of the game. While you can interact with most items in the game, I couldn't get around that nailed to the ground feeling which made me feel as though I was just watching an animated show from a 3D television screen. I have constantly been impressed with VR games in the past solely due to their immersion into the game, however Rhombus of Ruin doesn't feel like that immersion is taken advantage of at all.

It's a pleasure in VR games to be able to move around and look at objects using your head along, however in the early years of VR, it's an inescapable fact that the headset you're wearing has wires coming off the back of it. For this reason, I appreciate it when the controller on your hand can take over with some of the movements, in particular with head or body rotation. Rhombus of Ruin has no ability to move using the thumbsticks of the Dual Shock 4 controller so if you want to see something that is directly behind you, you will have to physically turn around, which can lead to getting tangled in your VR cables.
Rhombus of Ruin can be completed within around the three hour mark which I found reasonable for the amount of enjoyment that I got out of it. The characters have a tongue-in-cheek style attitude which is suitable for children of all ages, however you need to remember that even though a keen audience for this kind of game would be 12 years and under, that to use the Playstation VR, Sony recommends that you be above this age.

For fans of the Psychonauts series and owners of the PSVR headset, there's a lot to enjoy in Rhombus of Ruin and it paves the way for Psychonauts 2 which by all rights should only be just around the corner. As a Psychonauts game, Rhombus of Ruin does the series justice even though it's a massive departure from how the original game plays, however as a VR game, there's a lot that can be improved for future iterations in this world.

Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is available now on the Playstation Store for $28.95AUS

Initial release date: 21 February 2017
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Genres: Puzzle video game, Adventure game
Platform: PlayStation VR

Lucas Aurelius
Aussie Gamers Express
21st February 2017
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