Platformers are an oddly character-driven genre. Actually, “character-driven” isn’t quite right; that term tends to imply lots of emotional development and interaction between characters (as opposed to interaction between the player and the character). Maybe it’s better to say that platformers are a mascot-driven genre. Whatever. Rasputin of Psychonauts isn’t the most compelling lead ever, but his large supporting cast — a melange of psychic summer campers, secret agents, and assorted psychotics — is a ton of fun.

The game’s level design is a blast, as well. It’s nice to see that 3D games have grown out of simply adding breadth to the height and width of old 2D platformers and have started to really use volume to their advantage. Psychonauts takes the idea of playing inside someone’s psyche as an opportunity to throw some twisted (literally) levels at the player. On top of the architecture, the art design is fantastic: One level has you swinging around on a giant Calder mobile; another takes place inside a black velvet painting, complete with poker-playing dogs and blacklit colors.

The best thing about the game may be the Levitation Ball. Rolling around on a bouncy little globe of psychic energy makes Psychonauts feel like the love child of Crystal Castles and Marble Madness; the only thing missing is a proper trackball.

The game isn’t all just rolling and running and jumping, though; there are some puzzles that are almost as crazy as the level design. Not actually difficult, mind you, just crazy. The level in which you defeat an imaginary Napolean at a hex-based war game by switching between three different scales (life-sized, playing-piece-sized, and fiction-within-the-game-within-a-game-sized)? It defies description. Seriously; a minute ago, this paragraph was twice as long as it is now. I had to delete my attempt at explaining the war game level, though; it was too clearly the product of a mind bent by playing it. It’s surprising how much sense it makes while you’re playing it, though.

The game is almost sunk by rampant collectionitis, a tragic condition where the fun is slowly leeched out of a game by tedious, repetitive tasks along the lines of “gather all the widgets for a powerup” or “bring me 73 thingies to get to the next level.” If you can get past that (or if, god help you, you enjoy that), Psychonauts is pretty much a non-stop romp.