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Thursday, August 30, 2012

32

Girl Talk: Raz

As summer draws to a close, it's time to reminisce fondly about our experiences in the psychic dojo that is Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp. (Or if you have a PS3 and haven't played it, chat about the experiences you WILL have if you have the good sense to download Psychonauts now that it's available.)

Oooh, that new kid. How cool, just HOW COOL, is Razputin Aquato?! What an entrance! Lili was clearly impressed, and so was I. I heard a rumor that he was raised in the circus. And I read in True Psychic Tales #874 that when camp was over and the brain-stealing plot was foiled (by Raz personally!), he became the youngest Psychonaut ever. And to think, Milla Vodello wanted to send him home on the first day! 

Raz's go-gettin' spirit is admirable. While the other kids are concerned with dating, bullying, cheerleading while poisoning other campers on the side, choosing the best band name (Firestarters gets my vote), peeking into the girls' bunk, and blowing up aggravating squirrels with the power of their minds, Raz isn't fooling around. He has a limited amount of time to become a fully fledged Psychonaut before his psychic-hating circus acrobat father arrives to take him home from camp, and he doesn't intend to let it go to waste. And whyever would you, if you were at psychic camp? As Raz comes to learn, shooting things with the power of your mind is fun and useful! If you're proficient at Pyrokinesis, it's ever so much easier to kill [insert whatever “it” that needs killing] with fire. Raz is the only kid to earn all of the PSI Cadet merit badges, complete the camp scavenger hunt, kill off the dangerous hairless bears and pyrokinetic cougars that infest the camp grounds, free a giant mutant lungfish from bondage (in spite of the fact that he's cursed to die in water!), resolve the mental troubles of an abandoned asylum's worth of inmates, and, as previously mentioned, foil a sinister brain-thieving plot and return the kidnapped brains of his fellow campers. If I were Lili's age, I'd make him a friendship bracelet, too. He could sort out my emotional baggage any time.

On the other hand, it could potentially be troublesome to have a boyfriend who can read minds. At least he'll know whenever you want to make out! Well ... hopefully.

Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp is packed with interesting stuff to do. I got sent to Bible Camp as a kid and spent huge amounts of time feeling bitter that we weren't allowed to run around wherever we liked. (Most of the rest of the time was spent memorizing verses to dominate all comers at “Bible drills,” eating peanut butter sandwiches, and crushing on fellow dude campers. There was a lot of pre-teen lust floating through the air at Bible Camp.) Playing as Raz was a total exercise in wish fulfillment, as he not only gets to levitate around indiscreetly exercising outlandish and impossible powers of destruction, but is actively encouraged to do so. You can't even collect all of the Scavenger Hunt items without burning things up and blocking up geysers to make them explode elsewhere! Raz doesn't even get hassled for killing the wildlife. Those damn squirrels provoked his friend, anyway. See you in hell, little furry things! The conversations of other campers are always fun to listen in on, and the salty comments of Agent Ford Cruller's various incarnations are always entertaining. If I were Raz, I'd hate to go back to the circus, too. Whispering Rock is where it's at!

But Raz isn't just a cool kid with incredible acrobatic abilities, killer goggles, and quippy one-liners — his compassion and discernment set him apart. He's not just the only person to take action when his peers' brains are stolen; he's the only one to even notice that his awkward friend Dogan has been rendered brainless, when even authority figures insist that the tin-foil hat wearing, accidental brain-exploding boy is “just like that.” Determined to save his new acquaintances from their sudden and bizarre attachment to TV and hacky sacks, Raz snatches a teacher's abandoned Psycho-Portal and sets to work.

The minds through which Raz travels during his brief stay at camp are reliably hilarious, often poignant, and always fascinating. Each psyche is wildly different, from Sasha Nein's carefully controlled cube to Gloria von Gouton's savage inner stage critic to Edgar Teglee's black-lit velvet paintings and marauding bull. Each one, however (perhaps excepting Lungfishopolis and the Milkman Conspiracy, which I imagine lie outside most of our typical experiences), is relatable in some way. Insecurity, jealousy, perceived inadequacy, regret, the shattered memories of an elderly person—the very human troubles young Raz encounters during his sojourns around camp and into various characters' minds are more complex and hurtful than he realizes. The hidden room enclosing a traumatic memory in Milla's upbeat mind is particularly gut-wrenching. Not every problem is easily solved, but Raz's innocence, optimism, and ability to blast mental demons into tiny chunks help to improve the outlooks of most people he meets in his efforts to gain new psychic abilities and save the brains of his fellow campers. Would that we all had a fledgling Psychonaut to help us overcome our issues!

There are few characters and games more deserving of a sequel than Raz and Psychonauts. Despite the game's cliffhanger ending and some excited buzz about funding in early 2012, Raz's post-Psychonauts fate is currently left up to our imaginations. I, for one, would be thrilled to accompany Raz on another adventure. Let's hope we're able to in future!

Discussion time!

- If you could have one psychic power, what would it be? Clairvoyance? Confusion? Invisibility? Good old fashioned kill 'em with fire? (If you don't pick Levitation, I don't understand you.)

- Which is your favorite mind in Psychonauts? Milla's party? Boyd's paranoia? Fred Bonaparte's bizarre chess game? I do love some dogs on velvet, Edgar.

- If you could throw a Psycho-Portal onto the head of a real life person and run around in their brain, who would it be? What do you think their mind would look like?

- Have you ever wondered what the landscape of your own mind would look like? Do you think it would have as much meat in it as Coach Oleander's? Be honest: could you be summoned to psychically communicate with someone if they waved a piece of bacon in the air?

- Speaking of meat, just how stinkin' hard was the Meat Circus?! Ridiculous.

- Have you ever performed Raz's little spin and head-touching hand-pointing motion while hearing the accompanying music in your head upon mastering a new ability? I suppose this is more of a recommendation than a question. It's as good as singing the Zelda chest-opening music to yourself while opening a box! “I boiled quinoa! I cleaned the microwave with white vinegar!” It's just so satisfying.

Previously: Niko.

Jennifer Culp's new ambition is to earn a nickname as cool as “The Mental Minx.” If her pet tortoise weren't already named Zelda Bowser, she might call her Mr. Pokeylope.

32 Comments / Post A Comment

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

Much like the original Portal, I felt like this game was too difficult from a dexterity standpoint and so missed out on a lot of audience that would have otherwise loved it.

OhShesArtsy

YES PSYCHONAUTS.

FUCK THE MEAT CIRCUS.

NERDY LOVE. NERDY LOVE TO ALL THIS.

OhShesArtsy

@OhShesArtsy My favorite mind is the Milkman Conspiracy. IT IS THE BEST.

(I don't want to work any more today. I'm going to just live in this thread now.)

BattyRabbit

@OhShesArtsy Can we just quote Milkman lines at each other all the time?? I am the milkman! My milk is delicious! And the G-Mennnnn, gawd. That level took so long because I had to go to every type of G-Man and talk to them over and over until I was done laughing at their lines.

Gef the Talking Mongoose

@BattyRabbit : Hello fellow road crew worker. Welcome to the road crew.

Jennifer Culp

@BattyRabbit That is a nice watering can. May I ask how much you paid for it?

The whole game is so stinkin' quotable. Deadlyyyy TRIANGLE BEAM!

TheBourneApproximation

Ooo, it's the end of the month and time for this series again! Most excellent. This game keeps getting praised to high heaven on a bunch of different sites whose opinions I find reliable, so maybe I shall finally add it to the Big To-Do List. ($10 on steam? Excellent.)

From that position of ignorance, I'm going to choose Invisibility, mostly because I just finished a stealth/no-kill playthrough of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and it made life so easy. Room full of beefy guards with very large weapons? Activate cloak and run right through them, as they look around confused at where the loud echoing footsteps and "fuuuck yooooooouuu..." are coming from. Then, hack all of their personal email and steal all of their candy bars.

(No seriously, DE:HR is the awesomest game and I have so many fangirlish opinions and I have still not decided yet if Adam Jensen if crushworthy or just kind of ridiculous looking and oh god I have no life.)

celeec4@twitter

@TheBourneApproximation DE:HR, so good, so so good. (Admission: I made my friend play it while I watched, because I am HORRIBLE at stealth/shooting games.)

Adam Jensen, totally crushworthy AND ridiculous looking. One does not preclude the other, in my mind.

TheBourneApproximation

@celeec4@twitter Uugh, I was so terrible at it when I started, and was reloading about twice per minute during the first post-tutorial session. And any time my character came in contact with a gun being fired, he was horizontal and groaning in about 2 seconds (stupid first boss fight). But between the gorgeous art direction, the awesome characters (spoiler: I saved you, Malik!!), and the incredibly fun to explore environments, I kept playing until the (mildly disappointing) end.

As has been the central thesis on so many of these Girl Talk posts, Adam Jensen's voice acting is his #1 sexy attribute. And his super-silly embedded/retractable sunglasses (teehehehehe). In my mind, after the game he and Pritchard declare their irritable love for one another and ride off into the sunset in Malik's VTOL.

celeec4@twitter

@TheBourneApproximation Yeaaah, instead of throwing my controller across the room, I just went over to my friend's when he was playing. Its much more fun heckling the person trying not to throw the controller than being said person.

Bonus: I just sat around with my DS playing Devil Survivor endlessly while he kept reloading scenes to try for stealth. Heh.

The sunglasses, ohmygod, the sunglasses. Ugh, so wonderfully awful, and I love your headcanon for post-game. *nods* Stealing it!

squishycat

This game is one of my absolute favorites (also available on XBox and through Steam for your PC), and not too much of a challenge for me (I am not terribly good at games that require a lot of dexterity or very sharp timing) UNTIL THE GODDAMN MEAT CIRCUS. Yes, final levels should be difficult BUT NOT THAT MUCH MORE DIFFICULT.

I want to set ALL THE BEARS ON FIRE.

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

@squishycat: Yeah, I mean it was fair until the Meat Circus. That's some Mega Man difficulty right there.

sophia_h

@squishycat

FAVORITE GAME OF ALL TIME. It's basically the game that got me back into video games in the 21st century, after a ten year break since SuperNintendo. I've played it through three or four times..

...and never personally beaten the Meat Circus. Like, not even the first level. I got into the game because a good friend of mine did the sound design for it, and even he struggles to beat the ending. Apparently it was originally too easy and they over-corrected? Luckily I have the cutscene DVD so I can still just watch the ending, but my Xbox has like three saved games all at the same stupid point.

Gef the Talking Mongoose

@sophia_h : Yes! And it totally stands up to many many replays. Like, I keep my old Xbox around just so I can play Psychonauts.

The PS2, on the other hand, justifies its continued existence by playing either Katamari Damacy or Shadow of the Colossus, and nothing else.

sophia_h

@Gef the Talking Mongoose Are we secret twins?? My PS2 also exists only for We Love Katamari! (SotC was sadly too difficult for me, though beautiful.)

BornSecular

YAYYYY! Girl Talk!

Ok. Now I can actually read it.

Biketastrophy

I got really excited when my mind read "Girl Talk: Rez" but also really confused cause man who is attracted to the rez guy? His ultimate form is a baby.

Probs

@Biketastrophy If I recall correctly certain versions of Rez shipped with a plastic doo-dad that vibrated to the beat. Certain associations could be made there...

BornSecular

If I could have a psychic power, it would be to have all of the powers. I have always loved the idea. I can remember reading/loving an Anne McCaffrey series about telepathy...science fiction, involved them being called Primes....

And after a quick search, that was the Talent Series. I wonder if it's actually as good as I remember it? I will probably never read it again (too many other things to do!).

Maladydee

@BornSecular Like all of Anne McCaffrey's stuff, it's mostly good with a few great parts, and a LOT of gross stuff that you don't remember from your first/younger readthroughs.

BornSecular

@Maladydee Ok, yeah...I'll stick to things I haven't tried yet, like this game! When I told my husband Psychonauts was the topic of Girl Talk this month, he yelled at me to go play it right that instant.

Evan James@twitter

Literally JUST started playing this on my mac 3 days ago. Not far enough in to have any sort of discussion, other than that I am absolutely TERRIFIED of the Meat Circus.

angelan

To my shame I never actually managed to finish this one. I was aaaalllmoost to the end, and then BAM, computer failure and a wiped save game :(. The milkman conspiracy was the best mind, no question.

brilliantmistake

I feel so much better hearing that other people had trouble with the coordination it takes to play they game. I'm generally uncoordinated and panic under fire (turns out that jfskdllaksf'd is not an actual command that will keep you from getting shot) and usually stick to point & click adventure as a result. Somehow, I got through the meat circus, but stalled out on the roller coastery part a few months ago and haven't gone back (yet). I'd still recommend the game though, it's lots of fun and very funny.

Milkman conspiracy was def the best.

youresmalltime

ZELDA BOWSER THE TORTOISE Jennifer I love you.

Jennifer Culp

@youresmalltime She is the coolest tortoise on the whole wide face of the planet. Her very favorite thing is to navigate lengthy obstacle courses made of around-the-house items like encyclopedias and shoes.

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