Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top 50 Video Game Moments: Number 23

Today's moment comes from Psychonauts. Since that game isn't going to be on my "Top 50 Games" list, this is as good a time as any to air my grievances regarding it.

If the list was 'Top 50 Funniest Games' or 'Top 50 Games With Best Dialog', Psychonauts would be near the top. I laughed harder during Psychonauts than almost any game I've ever played. Unfortunately, as I went on, I realized that I was slogging through the gameplay, just to get to the parts where the writing shone through. Once I got to the infamous "Meat Circus", the suddenly psychotic difficulty got in the way of what was already some fairly uninspired gameplay.

To be fair, there were sections that had excellent and rewarding video game action (Lungfishopolis springs to mind), but even then, the gameplay isn't what made it good. As a written story, it's close to the best video gaming has to offer. As a video game, it just kind of gives me a 'meh' feeling.

I can see why critics loved it - Lord knows I wanted to.

Now that I got all downer, let's go on to the good times.

After the kind lungfish swallows you to ferry you across the deadly lake (yeah, Psychonauts is that kind of game), you come to an old, rundown asylum. The gate is locked, and the only sign of life is a half-crazy (or more probably fully crazy) guard patrolling the area, muttering about 'the milkman' coming to unlock the gate. Once you use your Psycho-Portal to access his brain (again, that kind of game), you begin to unfold the glory of the Milkman Conspiracy.

Turns out, the guard is out of his gourd, and his brain is overrun with G-Men looking for 'The Milkman'. In order to keep up appearances, these spies have posed as seemingly everyday people such as gardeners, housewives, plumbers, and road workers.

No one here but us plumbers. Move along citizen.
The G-Men know that no mere prop could ever fully convince the skeptical of their pure intentions, however, so they pack in hilarious lines the entire level. Quotes like "My red sign helps me work on the road." mean nothing out of context, but in game, delivered in that wonderful way that only the most highly-trained secret agents can do, they are gold.

How do you foil such crafty agents? By playing their game, of course. Simply pick up a prop and the agents will readily accept you - to not do so would be to drop their cover, and they are certainly to wise to do that. In fact, if you use Raz's new 'clairvoyance' ability to see yourself through their eyes, you will see that you actually show up to them as though you are the person you're posing as. That's dedication.

Eventually, you find the milkman, who is exactly who you thought he was. Before you exit the guard milkman's brain, he leaves you with one parting bit of wisdom...

"I am the milkman, my milk is delicious"

True that, Milkman. Now give the world the milk it wants - the milk is deserves.


  1. I have this game on my list, and it's because of things like this. I passed the Meat Circus (and the whole game), and fuckshoes, some of those jumps make me want to devil worship.

    I know I overrate this because it's a slightly-above-average game with a fantastic, funny story. I'll put it this way: I still adore this story, and I had forgotten about the milkman business. Strange, considering I am a milkman of a kind...

  2. When it was on, it was inventive, funny, and refreshing.

    When it wasn't, it was a hard-to-control, sloppy platformer.

    There were just too many instances of it being off its game, and it frustrated me. This was just one scene that I could've put on this list (I nearly put Lungfishopolis, too, because the mere mention of 'Goggalor' makes me giggle), but as a overall gaming experience, it just didn't work for me. Like I said, I can certainly see why people love it, it just didn't all translate for me.

  3. I still need to get to this one. Tim Schafer is an exceptional writer, and all of his games have great bits worth seeing. Full Throttle and Grim Fandango are near masterpieces.

    He just released Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. I'm sure it's a must-have.

  4. That's his?! No wonder it sells so well.

    He recently did Costume Quest as a PSN download (it may be on XBLA too). Like Psychonauts, it's inventive and occasionally very funny, but as a game it really lacks. Every battle is exactly the same. Luckily, the non-fighting parts of the gameplay can be pretty fun. It's also just a 4-6 hour game, even to get everything, which might be the right amount for a funny diversion with okayish gameplay.