Enter a paper world of bizarre characters, detailed environments and a storyline which will have you laughing all the way.
Have you ever wanted to stick it to The Man? How about sticking it to him in a world of zany characters, where 2D paper rain falls down on a 2D paper city? Where incompetent thugs roam the streets in a city-wide manhunt for a guy framed for a crime he didn’t commit? Where the likes of male pregnancy, terrible psychiatrists, forbidden love, stickers and the ability to read minds using a pink spaghetti-arm jutting out of a guy’s head are just some of the things you will be faced with? Sounds pretty insane, right? Well, this is the grungy, quirky world of Stick It to The Man, one of the funniest and well-designed indie games of 2013.
Developed by Zoink! (Adventure Time: Rock Bandits, Swing King and EnergyMix) and published by Ripstone Publishing, Stick It to The Man is a puzzle-platformer title with elements of point-and-click and abundant with kooky hilarity. A side-scrolling platformer found originally on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, Stick It to The Man is now also available on Steam which means more people can enjoy this great addition to modern gaming.
The game sees you playing as Ray Doewood, a worker testing out hard hats through a hilarious star rating method, which depends on how many cartoony stars form after taking a direct blow to the head. On his way back home Ray gets himself into a little accident, and after waking up from a tutorial-like dream ends up with a long, pink spaghetti-arm sticking out of his head – though that isn’t the end of it. From then on this strange arm grants him the amazing ability to not only alter the world around him, but to read people’s minds. This ability is imperative in clearing his name after being framed for a crime he didn’t commit by an evil shadowy figure known as ‘The Man’.
As mentioned before, this game includes a rather intriguing aspect which acts as the fundamental gameplay mechanic; the pink spaghetti-arm poking out of Ray’s head. This is one of the strongest features in the game and can be used to read minds, be pulled out of danger and across gaps using pins, being able to rip parts of the surrounding paper scenery off and using stickers to solve puzzles.
One interesting use of this little gift is being able to read the minds of thugs as well as civilians. These bulky henchmen are constantly on the prowl for Ray though to slip by them you can use their own thoughts against them; yeah that’s right, when they are thinking about catching Ray or the fact they are tired, you can rip these thoughts out and slap them onto other thugs. Doing so creates hilarious consequences and due to this, as well as the fact Ray has no means to attack, the game has a small stealth element to keep you on alert. Oh, and if you get caught you don’t have to start the level over; instead you merely respawn at a checkpoint through the use of a machine that prints and cuts out a new copy of Ray from a piece of paper.
The main gameplay sees Ray going around trying to find his way to the end of each level, usually by solving a task which requires a line of puzzles to be solved beforehand. More often than not the conclusion to solving a puzzle is a funny and bizarre situation, which sometimes gives you a sticker to complete another task until you reach the overall objective.
Throughout the game these actions are easy to pull off; one analogue stick is used to control the movement of Ray and the other the spaghetti-arm, although one of the things I found was how awkward the spaghetti-arm movement can be. At times I tried to rip a thought out of a guard’s head or attempted to grasp onto a pin to fling to another area, but instead found myself slapping an item onto another nearby hostile, essentially wasting the item. Though overall this is hardly a cause for concern.
With the idea of a mind-reading arm coming out of someone’s head the humour is obviously going to be one of the game’s strong aspects, and with Ryan North (creator of Dinosaur Comics and writer for the Adventure Time comic) on the team it’s no wonder why this is the case. Whilst the banter and plot ideas are nothing too complex they are not the type of humour that is downright idiotic either; it’s humour that will have you laughing for all the right reasons. To quote Klaus Lyngeled, Managing Director of Zoink!: “If you play Stick It to The Man and manage to not smile then… well I think you might be dead. Sorry.” Oh, and if you like pop culture references just wait until you meet the two Italian plumb- I mean gangsters, and also see if you can find the jab at one of the most infamously annoying NES titles.
Solid and humorous writing are nothing without everything else that makes a video game great, the audio being one such thing. From the soundtrack, sound effects and voice acting, they all blend nicely together to pull you into Ray’s world. The music fits the tone for each level perfectly, especially the chase music which happens when Ray is spotted by someone hostile; it’s a song you will find getting stuck in your head, though with its funky beat you won’t mind at all.
Whilst the music and sound effects that go with it are well-placed, it’s the voice acting that really makes the game’s audio fantastic. The range of different voices, be they male, female or even of different nationalities and stereotypes, are delivered in a way that gives life to each and every character in this large cast of nutcases, even if only for about a minute if not less. However long their screen-time you still manage to take a peek into the window of each character’s life and feel something for them, which comes down to a great mixture of their voice work and visual representation.
Speaking of visuals, that is another point which makes Stick It to The Man so unique. The cardboard/paper visuals are something standout, which is always nice to see in indie games; it’s a feature which more and more video games, indie or not, are using. From the funky art style of the settings and depictions of various places – such as a fairground or even your typical bustling city – to the twisted character designs, all these features come together to make Stick It to The Man as aesthetically appealing as it is. Despite the simple 2D aspect there is so much depth and detail (not forgetting the audio) that you can’t help feeling drawn into the city.
All in all, Stick it To The Man is fantastic. Despite the occasional control annoyance, the only other downside I could find with the game is its length. Maybe I’m just being greedy, but I simply want more, though the length is irrelevant when you look at how fluent, hilarious and brilliant this game is overall. There are trophies to unlock for that little extra bit of (re)playability, jokes to be found and a lot of laughs to be had. Stick It to The Man is everything a platformer should be, and an experience that has left me hungry for more.
Stick It to The Man is out now on PS3 (reviewed), PS4, PC and PS Vita.
- Amazing, quirky visuals and designs of Ray’s world.
- Hilarious dialogue and plot, along with great audio which will leave you wanting more.
- Simple yet enjoyable puzzle, point-and-click, platformer hybrid gameplay with a bit of stealth thrown in.
- Not difficult at all but still a game that requires you to think and solve challenges using the superb mind-reading mechanic.
- Doesn’t take long to complete.
- Very minor annoyance with control.