Girl Talk: Raz

by Jennifer Culp

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.