Psychonauts - The Milkman Conspiracy

setting your game mostly in the brains

of others kind of requires some

creativity when it comes to level design

Double Fine's action platformer

Psychonauts initially released in 2005

on the PC PlayStation 2 and original

Xbox by Majesco suffered a troubled

development cycle and a dwindling

interest in its genre but brain

spelunking through a Saturday morning

cartoon world proved to be enough of a

hit with a subsection of players to make

Psychonauts one of gaming's biggest cult

hits players take on the role of

Rasputin or Raz as he prefers to be

called a circus runaway who infiltrates

the whispering Rock psychic summer camp

the camp acts as a training ground for

psychically gifted children or psycho

dad's to become spies of the brain

invading kind known as Psychonauts

so naturally most of the games various

levels take place in the gray matter of

the characters Raz encounters throughout

the world every brain you explore in

Psychonauts is layered with neurological

puns and psychological metaphor but no

frontal lobe comes close to the wondrous

mania on display in the milkman

conspiracy huh who are you working for


I'm with the Psychonauts that doesn't

fit in that doesn't fit in at all maybe

I've got this all wrong

Raz first enters into the milkman

conspiracy through the mind of an addled

Guardsman Boyd Cooper outside the gates

of an asylum where a fellow psychonaut

is being held captive Raz attaches the

small door that grants him access into

other people's brains to the back of

Boyd's neck and tumbles into a dank

living room covered in newspaper

clippings Boyd remarks on how his

investigation is almost complete

exposing the milkman as the central

figure to some sinister unknown plot

there is no door to exit the newspaper

strewn house until you open the

refrigerator inside Raz finds the

clairvoyance ability and a matching

merit badge which allows you to see

through another character's eyes using

it on Boyd the house is suddenly lit by

glowing arrows and note scribbles one of

these hastily written notes suggests

that the milkman is dead or at least has

been reported as such the milkman is

dead not Craig the door to the outside

appears and Raz is tasked with going to

the graveyard to find the milk man's

corpse exiting with the warnings of

being watched Raz enters into a 50s

suburban neighborhood bent onto itself

streets and houses curve up into the air

and fold in all directions eyes peer

from under trash can lids mailboxes and

blinds surveillance cameras pop out from

lawn flamingos and fire hydrants the

neighborhood lay in R as follows acts on

a peculiar sense of gravity keeping the

young psycho dad on the ground even when

said surface is bent sideways in the air

most everyone in the milkman conspiracy

saved for as Boyd and the Girl Scout or

more appropriately rainbow squirt cookie

Salesforce are g-men ineptly trying to

act as civilians one g-man uses a

receiver as a dumbbell another as

playing as plunger like a trumpet all of

them also spout small talk relating to

their positions remarking about pie

flavors and waste management in equally

dead voices

style royalty workers only beyond the

yellow line

you guys are road crew workers yes we

work on the road with these red signs I

see rez can traverse across gaps in the

sky to other cul-de-sacs stretching

nearby entering into houses to uncover

more g-men collectibles and or props

granting access to restricted areas

after finding some flowers to enter the

graveyard Raz burns off some vines

blocking the door to the milk man's

mausoleum the book he finds inside leads

Boyd to conclude that the Book

Depository is the next location to visit

giving Raz a fake sniper rifle to fit in

amongst the g-man assassins they're

finding a plunger in a dark office

grants the player access to the sewer

path toward the Book Depository an army

of g-men posing as assassins stand

between razz and the depository building

with an unknown sniper taking potshots

at razz if he doesn't use his shield

ability at the right time a rainbow

squirt sales kid waits for the psych

identity or and quickly leaps to her

death without revealing anything taking

out a few g-men with a suicide box of

cookies below hijacking the view of a

helicopter pilot through clairvoyance

Raz discovers the resting place of the

milkman in an underground facility on a

remote island in the neighborhood the

psycho deck grinds on some nearby

telephone wires to the house resting

atop the facility it turns out to be the

base of the rainbow squirts who include

the protection of the milkman as part of

the sacred oath of their order oh


have you come to pay for your rainbow

Terry we knew you would a group of g-men

arrived at the island base along with

the game's more pervasive enemy type the

thought attacking sensors setting off

the rainbow squirts more aggressive side

fighting his way to the Milkman's

resting chamber Raz engages a rainbow

squirt den mother in the levels boss

fight defeating her awakens the milkman

a hypnotized Boyd who ascends to the

battlefield of rainbow squirts and g-men

with his Molotov milk bottles and

delusional rage special delivery today

Raz is abruptly ripped from Boyd's mind

who assumes the milkman persona and

opens the asylum gates to continue his

rampage in the real world I am the

milkman my milk is delicious

Floyd are you okay

time for the final delivery to this

address hey does that milk regular kind

or the exploding dream kind it's

fortified with what the world wants what

the world deserves are you sure you

don't want to just talk about this void

on a pure gameplay level Psychonauts was

one of the first times that many people

got to play with the idea of moving

between and adjusting to different

fields of gravity this was two years and

an entire console generation before

Super Mario Galaxy toyed with

gravitational pull more substantially

the brief hang time players felt as they

transitioned from one street level to an

inverted one was a revelation for most

the second it took the camera to adjust

to the new center of the screen sold the

experience even more space more than a

first-time flirtation with the idea of

magnetic forces the milkman conspiracy

is the strongest triumph of psycho Nazis

use of level design as characterization

an entire monologue about conspiracies

and their relationship to psychopathy is

being had throughout the stage often in

plain sight what we expect to be the

anarchic goop of a demented mind is

actually a once a stable vision of

Suburbia which grows more twisted and

bent as we explore while still retaining

its innocent appearance the omnipresence

of the g-men speaks to an all-consuming

mistrust of the world the common fear

the more unhinged conspiracy theorists

have that everyone is somehow shady and

out to get them Boyd at least in his

milkman state sees everyone housewives

plumbers telephone repairmen and even

grieving widows as thinly masked shadow

operatives desperate for his precious

research the g-men failure to even

remotely disguise themselves seems to be

an allusion to the common chant of the

tinfoil hat wearers that everything is

so plainly obvious think the

stereotypical line how

the only one seeing this it's right in

front of you sheeple cutting the bush

does not hurt it more obvious

conspiratorial references include the

Book Depository and the long-range rifle

both things highly associated with the

JFK assassination an event still mired

in multiple conversations about secret

plots and magic bullets the milkman

conspiracy is also where we get our

first grasp at an underlying morality to

Psychonauts our gift of the clairvoyance

ability becomes a useful tool for

solving the levels puzzles but also

drives home the game's theme of

discovering empathy particularly

exploratory players can find the hidden

backstory of each mind they dive into

often revealing a truer version of a

character than what their dialogue would

tell you we constantly learn new ways on

how Psychonauts has cast views their

shared world and Raz himself the short

child appearing as a city destroying

monster to a terrified lungfish for

example the clairvoyant ability is that

idea condensed into a single mechanic

showing how everyone else in the game

views Raz as he runs by the theme of a

sleeping mind also manifests itself

throughout the level the milkman

conspiracy is the only stage in the game

where players can repeatedly face the

nightmare a functionally optional boss

set in a hellish landscape the milkman

persona being locked away in an eternal

slumber is Boyd Cooper's way of keeping

a side of his personality and check-in

active and dormant his conspiratorial

rants about the milkman are a method for

his addled brain to process why this

part of him exists players that found

the two hidden memory vaults in the

level find out why the milkman came to

be in Boyd's mind and it isn't a

pleasant story the idea of the milkman

was implanted in Boyd Cooper after he

was put away in a psych ward after

losing his job as a security guard

Boyd was hypnotized in his padded room

and he subconsciously connected the

milkman image through milk and cookie

associations made while he was


what made the milkman conspiracy

memorable when we all got our hands on

Psychonauts was mechanical

our first playtime with gravity and a

bunch of funny men in trench coats but

the level design that has become the

game's lasting legacy was at its peak in

Boyd Cooper's demented suburbia what

began as an exploration of a

conspiratorial mind gave way to the

knowledge that we helped re-release a

violent man's chaotic and splintered

personality he is the milkman his milk

is delicious what do you think Boyd you

ready to blow this popsicle stand

the milkman has completed his route

this video is made possible through

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