Psychonauts 2’s accessible difficulty options go back to Monkey Island 2

A mental connection gets made in Psychonauts 2 between cilantro and delight, just as difficulty options and accessibility have been connected in the game's design

Psychonauts 2 contains a bevy of accessibility options, including difficulty modifiers that let you turn off fall damage, become invincible, or deal tons of damage to enemies. This recently reignited the internet’s usual tedious discourse on videogame difficulty, but as studio director Tim Schafer says, there’s no need for controversy – these sorts of options have been in Psychonauts’ DNA for three decades, even before Schafer founded developer Double Fine.

“We’ve always wanted as many people as possible to play our games,” Schafer says in a Psychonauts 2 Q&A session. “Ever since we put difficulty modes in Monkey Island 2, we’ve always felt that – especially in narrative-based games – there are people who want to experience parts of the game, but aren’t able to get to them because of obstacles that we’ve put in the way.”

As Schafer acknowledges, those obstacles are “fun for some people. Really hard puzzles or really hard combat or really hard platforming are really fun for people who want to engage with that. But there’s people who are like ‘I don’t want to fight a lot, but I really want to find out what’s going on with this story.’

“There’s no reason to exclude people, I think, because of that. You can leave all that stuff in there, if you want to experience that. The things that we’ve added for not just difficulty, but also all kinds of accessibility, fit into that philosophy.”

As senior systems designer Lauren Scott explains, “you can pick and choose and customise what pieces of the game that you want to tone down, so that you can enjoy the parts of the game that are there.”

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Psychonauts 2 is shaping up to be fine take on platform games that improves on the original in every meaningful way. Our preview breaks down it down in a whole lot more detail, with further insights from Schafer and the team on the game’s development.

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