A couple of weeks ago, on May 20th, we celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness day, a day dedicated every year to raising awareness of accessibility across multiple industries.
While accessibility settings for your game can be announced any day of the year, several game developers this year used Global Accessibility Awareness Day to announce accessibility settings coming to their upcoming game releases in the coming year, such as Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, and the upcoming Psychonauts 2.
In a half hour long video, DoubleFine community manager Heather Alexandra and Senior Producer Kevin Johnson showed off the accessibility settings menus that will be available in Psychonauts 2 when it launches later this year.
So, today on Access-Ability, we’re going to be talking about the accessibility settings planned, at launch, for Psychonauts 2. We’re going to summarise the settings shown off in the recent 30 minute video, discuss who these settings benefit, and some small additions and tweaks we would love to see made to these settings to help make them as useful as possible for disabled gamers.
So, when you first boot up Psychonauts 2, the game brings up a partial Assist Features menu, designed to make sure players have the correct settings options enabled to enjoy the game’s opening cutscene.
Players on first boot can turn on subtitles, alter subtitle text language, swap out the game’s custom “wonky” font for something more traditionally readable, increase subtitles to a single larger font size, as well as activate a setting called Localised Navigation Sign UI. This setting will localise in game signage, including 3D environmental models, so that the text matches that of your in game subtitles.
Apparently, this setting came about after conversations between DoubleFine and Microsoft, following the developer’s acquisition. Microsoft apparently impressed upon DoubleFine the importance of integrating accessibility into the whole design process, not just tackingh it on at the end, which helped make more resource complex accessibility options like this possible.
After this initial Assist Features menu, players are taken to a mental health advisory screen, which discusses some of the topics and scenarios included in the game which may be difficult for certain kinds of players. Examples given by Alexandra and Johnson include a level in the game which is themed around gambling addiction, and the game’s opening level, which is made entirely out of teeth, and may cause issues for players with dental phobia.
Other examples given on the mental health advisory screen include PTSD, panic attacks, anxiety, and delusion. While the screen asserts that these topics are abstracted, touched in lighthearted ways, and the game is about healing and recovery, the information is there for players who may need it.
After a short plot introductory video, players reach the main menu, where they can jump into the full settings menu for the game.
Now, something important to note here for players, the main game’s settings menu has an Assist Features subsection, but it does not contain identical options to the assist features menu shown on initial boot, there are additional options in here. I feel like this could have been better communicated, as there is room for players to miss additional options, thinking they’ve already gone through this settings menu already on first boot up.
This full version of the Assist Features menu contains a toggle to turn off fall damage, a toggle to turn on invincibility, and a “narrative combat” toggle, which drastically increases the strength of player character Raz’s attack.
There;s also a camera shake intensity slider, for player with motion sickness, and colour blindness filters for a variety of colour blindness types. It was noted in the video that apparently the game’s overall design has been made with the aim that colourblind players who don’t find a setting that works for them can still navigate, thanks to important elements having unique recognisable shapes.
Of important note, all of these accessibility settings can be used without limiting your ability to see content, or unlock achievements. It was suggested that there is no penalty at all for using them, which is always appreciated.
Psychonauts 2 also features fully remappable buttons, and in a really nice addition you can apparently have button and feature overlaps, so that a single button when pressed executes multiple functions. If you struggle with pressing two buttons at the same time, map them to the same button. This could be particularly useful for players with controllers that feature additional buttons, such as controllers with back panel buttons to map combination functions to, or players using custom controllers such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
Players can also tweak vibration intensity as a slider, tweak camera sensitivity and inversion, and toggle a camera assist that by default gently points the camera towards progression.
Some common in game traversal options which require multiple button inputs, such as going from a double jump into a glide, of a glide into levitation, can be toggled to instead only require successive presses of the jump button to activate.
For functions that require a held button, such as lock on, or radial menu activation, you can instead toggle to a single press, for players who may struggle with holding buttons down indefinitely.
And, lastly, Psychonauts 2 features a selection of audio sliders, designed to help players balance audio in a way that works best for them.
While the accessibility settings on show here are promising, and show a definite effort to be inclusive, there are a couple of tweaks and suggestions I think would help improve things a little. I recognise that the game is approaching launch, and the ability to make changes is minimal, but I think it’s important to discuss where improvements can be made.
While some of the accessibility settings in Psychonauts 2 can be adjusted to varying degrees, many of them are unfortunately on / off toggles. In a perfect world, players would for example have the option to reduce fall damage and combat damage by a few different increments, rather than just having a full damage to invincibility toggle.
I would love to see a settings option so that players who have a specific mental health trigger, addressed in the mental health advisory screen, could get a warning before that specific scene comes up, so they know when to brace for it. Knowing it’s coming at some point in the game is a start, but games like Ikenfell do a good job of letting players know when a specific scene that may impact them is about to start.
Considering the game has font options, allowing players to switch off the default “wonky” font, it would be great to see rather than an on off toggle for their custom font, a couple of different options. Perhaps offer a couple of the competing standards for Dyslexia friendly fonts, such as Open Dyslexic, and some common sans serif fonts like Arial, or Comic Sans.
Additionally, I’d love to see a little more in the way of subtitle options than just regular and large size. Offer a couple of size options, subtitle backgrounds, speaker tags, colour coded speaker identification, options like that. Those might already exist as defaults in the subtitles, but they’re good options to consider.
While I have a few things I would have liked to see in these settings menus that are not present, I’m overall pretty positive about the accessibility settings in Psychonauts 2. It’s clear an effort was made, and a lot of the basic settings we would expect are thankfully present. Sure, I’d love to see some clarification on the two different Assist Feature menu contents, or a few more toggles changed to sliders, but the basics are all here to help a good number of disabled players play.
Whenever Psychonauts 2 does end up releasing this year, I’m glad to know I should be able to enjoy it, from a mental health and physical coordination standpoint. Having this information confirmed up front is important, I always find it easier to get excited for a game when I know I’ll be equipped to properly enjoy it.