Look, I know that “Inception” mash-ups and parodies were all the rage this summer. Honestly, all those YouTube clips are probably the only true mark of how successful Christopher Nolan’s sleepytime brain-bender is. But few have been as well-executed or spot-on as Inceptionauts by YouTube user FineLeatherJackets.
“Psychonauts” was a brilliant, underappreciated game from the last generation of consoles that was developed by Tim Schafer and his Double Fine productions studio. Players control young hero Razputin-Raz, for short- a half-acrobatic, half psychic daredevil. Raz runs away from the circus to a camp that trains Psychonauts, government agents with mental powers.
The 2005 release stood out as an inspired blend of platforming and puzzle-solving, but it was really the art direction and quirky look that made it become a cult classic. It inventively turned psychic turmoil in engagingly twisty levels, like the “Risk”-like board game inside the skull of a man with Napoleonic delusions. Another person was obsessed with blacklight paintings and the sections in his brain glowed as if under an ultraviolet lamp. Using the surreality brewing inside the human mind as a jumping-off point for interactive level design tapped into a clever, universal metaphor.
It’s the same territory Nolan explores in Like Dominic Cobb, the game’s hero jumps into people’s heads and has to fight off mental projections that want him out. And the mere presence of Raz or Cobb inside a body’s brain redirects the life of the person they’re intervening into. Similarities aside, the “Inceptionauts” mash-up imparts some much-needed sillness to the super-serious proceedings of Nolan’s headtrip action movie. Watching Raz mouth Cobb’s signature lines makes me wish there was a bit more loopiness in Nolan’s film. You can download “Psychonauts” for the PC on Steam or Xbox Live.