[Games That Nobody Plays Anymore is a weekly series written by Nathan Hardisty with a little title card help from Juan Houter. It’s an on-going series about the forgotten games of yesteryear, and doesn’t totally reflect the title. Remember; nobody stops playing these games; it’s just a title. Don’t make something of it or I will come down to your house and ask you politely to stop. If you have any suggestions for future titles to ‘GTNPA’ don’t forget to leave me a comment!]
It is the end.
I have written for Platform Nation for over a year and a bit. I’ve seen lows, highs and I’ve met many many people. Let’s perhaps leave my personal goodbyes for my final article (which I can confidently say will be the best thing you’ll ever read in your life). Games That Nobody Plays Anymore went from a little column and evolved into something moreso. It went from strength to strength and a wealth of readers flock to the nation every weekend to see what’s in store. I’ve made a lot of people go out and buy a few classic titles, I’ve seen people read my columns and shiver with nostalgia. Video-games are powerful in that we can all remember the titles of our childhood. They have evolved at such a pace which is fine-tuned to our own progression in life.
It is at an end then. I’ve had people tell me I’m an idiot, gay, a stupid asshole, that I can’t write for a damn, I’m a horrible writer and I’ve even been given death threats. I’ve been told I’m an Xbox fanboy, a Sony fanboy and a variety of other false claims. I am gamer, hear me roar. Many people simply took a glance at the title and ran straight into the comment, completely missing the point of the column. If someone requests I do a more modern title, then I’m bound to do it for them. I’m the generous type, but I feel I owe myself perhaps something. A little piece of personal pride, a high-note to end the series on. There’s only a handful of titles which stick out in my mind. Some I’ve written pieces about before and others will be left in the dark forever.
Shadow of the Colossus, Modern Warfare 2, Call of Duty 3 (first GTNPA I ever did) were all on the cards to do. There was just one other title just peeping out from the corner. It looked perfect, sexy and a true high-note to end this series on. It felt deserved and justifed.
Psychonauts represents a gigantic leap in the history of human-kind. It was when written text in games combined with interactivity evolved seamlessly together. The Lucasarts adventure titles (Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island etc.) all had a charm of humour to them. There’s one giant idol of mine that connects them all. Mr Schafer, the epitome of good humoured game writers. There is not a hair out of place when it comes to making me laugh with fits, or explore some part of my brain that I don’t dare to visit from time time. I mentioned a long while back that I wanted to start taking a look at more personal, positive titles and this is definitely one of the biggest.
It’s by no means a Shadow of the Colossus, but it does something which aids not just Schafer’s reputation but furthers the accessibility of humour to reach wider audiences and fill gaps in-between. I can say growing up to around twelve years old, I never took an interest in any comedian or comic material, perhaps reserving it for adulthood. Instead, this little gem caught my eye and by god I went places. I got the jokes. Smart, clever jokes which seemed to have countless anecdotes and stories behind them. An underlying tone of both silliness, seriousness and mind-boggling lunacy about every single joke. It was etched into every punctuation mark.
There’s something about the game that makes me think of Tim Schafer sat in a room with all of his friends, beer in hand and a pen in the other. They’re roaring with laughter, scribbling things down that will be illegible in the morning. It’s a piece of love, this game is, it’s nearer an independent game now that I think about it. It’s a trial of one man’s dream of a colourful dream adventurer to become more than just a transparent mess of words and a creative expression of interactivity and the power of videogames. I’ve heard stories behind this title that bill it as something radical for the company, they learned from this game that the Schafer charm wasn’t enough to convince people to go out and buy it.
I’ve not even settled into describing the game at all, just blabbering on about the studio. I feel I don’t need to, if I did, I would spoil it to hell and ruin the experience for you all. All I can say is that it could be said to be the silly version of Inception but without Leonardo DiCaprio checkin’ out Ellen Page and fighting his way through dreamy jargon. You will have fun with this. It’s a platformer, but not a platformer. It’s a puzzler, but it’s a platformer really. It’s something completely new and fresh and it evokes that sense of polygon discovery that I liken to the retro days. I’m not gonna be a grandpa and say ‘those days were the best’ but, honestly, I feel that most games are a labour of work rather than a labour of love.
The characters are all colourful and nearly magical. The game’s semi-linear structure has itself howling with inside jokes on videogames. The type of jokes your grandma wouldn’t get. I can say without a doubt that if you didn’t find Psychonauts to be pleasing in any way (from the set-pieces to the dream sequences to the humour) then you have no brain. Literally, please go see a Doctor. The only complaints I will join in with is the fact that the controls perhaps blow a monkeys. That’s it though, a small technicality amongst and otherwise perfect title. Not dizzying emotional heights perfection a la Portal or Shadow of the Colossus, but something accessible that speaks to everybody and absolutely nobody at the same time.
I think if you haven’t played this title, or any Schafer game, you are missing out big time. I find Brutal Legend gameplay-wise to be utterly boring, but to still be rip-roaring hilarious. I’m not even a Jack Black fan. Everything Schafer does is damn cool, and if you don’t think so, you’re a ruddy moron to be quite frank. You can find Psychonauts on the Xbox Live On Demand thingy for 1200 Microsoft Points (I think) and it’s more worth the money. If you have a PS2 or an Xbox then go stalk your neighbourhood Gamestop for a copy. I think it’s on Steam too, although platformers and the PC mix as well together as marmite and jam. Peanut butter jelly time.
That’s around a year of my life, no breaks whatsoever, of never ending retrospective. The sad thing is there is so much more to see and play. I’ll be revisiting my history on my own and not bringing you guys on the ride, but I hope I’ve succeeded in convincing you that sometimes it’s better to go back. Sometimes it’s better to finally finish that title you ditched all those years but loved. Sometimes it’s better to find out what that game on the top shelf was about. Sometimes it’s better to see why we game and what it means to game. I’m a horrible writer, I have shortcomings and more than likely there will be a variety of people who take glee in seeing this series finally go out.
To the rest of you; goodnight and sweet dreams.
Special thanks to all the Platform Nation crew for letting me ruin the site week-in and week-out for over a year and a bit. A thanks to all those loyal readers, a thanks to every asshole who jumped straight to the comments without reading the first paragraph (every site hit helps) and a very special thanks to you. Perhaps you joined us late in the cycle, perhaps this is your first. You don’t need to go read the others, they’re awful anyway. All that counts is you took the time out of your day to read dribble from a teenager. Patronization never felt more sweeter.