Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin

Game review by
Marc Saltzman, Common Sense Media
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin Game Poster Image
Enjoyable yet short, tedious, puzzle-heavy VR adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

All about psychic secret agents who use their powers for good.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Player assumes role of Raz, a young psychic agent, but you can use his mind to take control of other Psychonauts. Your goal is noble: to rescue Lili's kidnapped dad, who happens to be head of their organization. But you can light objects, people on fire using your powers.

Ease of Play

Simple controls; easy to learn.

Violence

Some animated violence, mostly against psychic investigators. That said, Raz does have pyrokinesis powers to light objects, enemies on fire (in cartoon-like fashion). Players can be hit, held against their will, squeezed, and so on.

Sex
Consumerism

Based on 2005 game Psychonauts.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is a puzzle-heavy virtual reality (VR) game for PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. It has the odd bit of fantasy violence, with Raz and other characters finding themselves engaged in light combat (usually against the victims of an enemy). But this combat isn't graphic, gory, or excessive. While gameplay is cartoonish, you can set an enemy on fire using your mind. There's a little bit of bathroom humor, too, such as handing someone toilet paper and magazines while they're using the restroom. Parents also should be aware that virtual reality equipment makers don't recommend VR experiences for kids under 12 due to the impact the technology may have on younger players' physiological development.

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What's it about?

PSYCHONAUTS IN THE RHOMBUS OF RUIN is a virtual reality game for the PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive based on the original Psychonauts game from 2005. This new adventure game -- populated with many puzzles and characters -- once again stars Razputin ("Raz"), a psychic secret agent, but to make progress, you must teleport from body to body while also moving objects with your mind. As luck would have it, the rescue party also is captured, so you must use your abilities to free yourself, rescue Truman, and reveal the identity of the mysterious kidnapper. You'll have help in your adventure with Raz's cohorts, including Lili, Sasha, Milla, and Coach Oleander. Your goal is to rescue Lili's kidnapped dad, Truman Zannotto, who happens to be the head of their psychic organization, from the dangerous area known as the Rhombus of Ruin, a little known but deadly part of the ocean.

Is it any good?

While many players miss "point and click" adventure games, the short, simple nature of this game keeps it from reaching greatness. Sure, adding virtual reality into the mix of Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin gives the aging adventure game a shot in the arm, and it does have funny dialogue and memorable characters (two hallmarks of designer Tim Schafer's work). Unfortunately, the puzzles, which make up the bulk of the gameplay, are overly simplistic, often repetitive, and, at only a couple of hours, very short. On one hand, there are clever and gratifying puzzles to solve, such as figuring out a string of symbols to punch into a kid's computer, bursting some instruments into flames to stop music at a disco, and underwater "sliding tile" challenges. But at the same time, there's an awful lot of jacking into the minds of eels and jellyfish, which gets boring and tedious after a while.

As a technical demo, though, Psychonauts impresses, especially since teleporting from body to body feels (and looks) good from a first-person perspective. There's also a good sense of scale in virtual reality, such as when you're held up as a small rat or zapping into the mind of a giant whale and seeing the world from that vantage point. And despite some tame fantasy violence, parents should like the inoffensive content found here. But if you're looking for deep puzzles or a lengthy adventure, you won't find either in this sit-down VR game.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is a mostly nonviolent adventure, but is that enough to keep the attention span of today's youth? Do they want to solve puzzles and talk with characters, or does there need to be more action?

  • Discuss screen limits. Because VR can be incredibly immersive, how do you set effective screen limits so that you don't stay completely plugged into the virtual world for hours?

  • Talk about virtual reality. Does the virtual reality experience enhance the gameplay, or could it work just as well as a standard non-VR game?

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