Tim Schafer (former LucasArts game designer, founder of Double Fine Productions) lost a little bit of gamer love in 2009, I think, by working everyone's anticipation level for Brütal Legend up to a fever pitch, and then releasing a game that didn't really match what everyone thought they had been sold. The blend of action and real-time strategy just didn't work for a lot of people in the context he presented it in, and no matter how excellent the story writing or how funny the voice acting (and by most accounts both were stellar, a rarity in games to be sure), if the game isn't fun to play, all its other accolades are diminished.
I thought it was a shame, because to me Tim Schafer will always be a great game designer, having made Grim Fandango, one of my favorite games of all time and one that far too few people played. If I could do nothing as a gaming enthusiast other than get more people to experience Grim Fandango, that would be worth doing. It was simultaneously one of the best LucasArts adventure games and one of the best-written games of any genre, and walked the line between hilarious and poignant with effortless grace. It's hard to find it these days, but it's worth the effort.
This post isn't about that game, though. It's about the game Schafer made between Grim Fandango and Brütal Legend - Psychonauts. Specifically, the fact that Psychonauts is on sale on Steam right now (and through tomorrow) for the mind-numbingly low price of $2. Two dollars. I'm considering snagging it and giving my boxed copy to a friend, just to share. I don't love Psychonauts quite as much as Grim Fandango, but that's probably just because the 3D action platformer doesn't warm my heart and my childhood memories quite the same way that the adventure genre does. It's still a brilliant game, and another one that criminally few people played at release. Maybe by now you've corrected that misstep, but if you haven't, do yourself a favor and go drop some pocket change on it.
Image Courtesy MobyGames
If you don't know anything about it and need to be sold, it's about a psychic youngster attending a summer camp for psychics, who naturally gets wrapped up in a wacky conspiracy plot and ends up needing to become a psychic secret agent in order to save the camp / world. The game levels generally consist of making your way through the minds of the other characters (rendered as inventive platforming levels where you fight bad dreams, clear away mental cobwebs, and unlock repressed memories contained in "emotional baggage" - literal suitcases in the game, of course). The whole thing is wrapped in some gleefully twisted character design, well-written & genuinely funny dialogue, and miles of charm. You should try it. Even if you somehow don't love it, I promise you've spent $2 on much worse things.