By: Matthew Striplen
Only once in a blue moon do I exclaim, “I love this!” within the first five minutes of playing a game. Stick it to the Man was certainly one of those exciting moments. Right from the opening cut scene, I was hooked and incredibly, the game never lost momentum. Stick it to the Man had me honestly LOLing in a non-ironic way. From the insane story all the way to fantastic art style, I was captivated in a matter of seconds. Join Ray, your average telekinetic hard hat tester, in a hilariously surreal adventure from outer space to the deepest levels of the subconscious mind.
Stick it to the Man is an interesting mix of the side-scrolling platformer, puzzler and point-and-click genres. Each one lends itself well to simplicity and Stick it to the Man does nothing to overcomplicate matters. Using only the analog sticks, d-pad and three buttons makes mastering most controls a breeze.
The basic grabbing function takes a little bit of getting used to. Moving the right analog stick aims the arm, but not in the expected manner. Instead of reaching toward the indicated direction, the arm curls around strangely. The only way to tell if you’re actually pointing at the right thing is by looking to see if the object indicator is slightly enlarged. Simply having it reach in the inputted direction would have been more logical.
By far, the most engaging aspect of Stick it to the Man is the sound, specifically the voice acting. With a massive cast of characters, the actors wowed me with the sheer range of voices produced. All were side-splittingly funny in their own way. The actors are credited for each voice they perform with a picture of the character, which is a nice touch. Congratulations to the actors and script writers for a fantastic performance.
The musical score is also amazing. Instead of the usual crappy synth tracks, Stick it to the Man features a full jazz rendition of original and famous songs alike. I’d definitely consider buying it if it’s ever released. That being said, there is a soundtrack bug. Sometimes the “alert” music will continue to play even after a pursuing enemy has given up. While relatively minor and easily fixable, this can obscure important dialogue.
The graphic style is fantastic. Characters appear as paper cutouts in a 2D environment. While not an entirely new concept, the gameplay elements involving it are certainly unique. There does appear to be a very minor glitch involving the noodle arm. If you pause the game while reading someone’s mind, the arm will be scrambled across the screen for a few seconds after resuming play.
Armed with his accidentally acquired mental powers, Ray is able to manipulate his surroundings. He can even read minds by massaging someone’s brain! As previously mentioned, all characters and objects function as paper drawings and cutouts. By walking near special objects called Stickers, Ray can grab and stick them elsewhere. By reading minds, Ray can also either place or remove stickers from thought bubbles, inducing a wide variety of wacky effects.
For example, Ray may discover a character thinking of a number. To modify that number, he can place seemingly unrelated objects, such as doughnuts, in the thought bubble to create extra zeros, which alters that character’s behavior. Crazy? Yes. Totally brilliant? Very yes.
Thumbtacks appear throughout the game and can be used as grab points for the noodly appendage, pulling Ray along at high speeds. Stick it to the Man uses this function to the fullest, creating difficult and inventive puzzles. Most puzzles are fun and engaging, but some require combing through massive areas to find a single sticker, which is extremely tedious. A few times I was forced to blindly guess until I happened to find the winning combination.
One of the best parts of Stick it to the Man is the diversity of levels. Space, the subconscious mind, and a bustling metropolis are all traversed, each more bizarre than the last. I mean bizarre in the best sense of the word. Sometimes, the outer layer of a building or room can be grabbed and torn away to reveal new characters and/or stickers behind it. Sometimes these characters are integral to the story, but other times they create mini side quests. It’s impossible to tell at the outset if a task is required or optional, but they always yield something good.
Only one type of enemy exists in Stick it to the Man, the agents: hulking, stereotypical tough guys in fancy suits. Each carrying a taser, they patrol various locations and pursue Ray whenever possible. Since he doesn’t possess any offensive abilities, Ray must avoid them at all costs. Luckily, the agents are nothing more than pea-brained thugs, so escaping them is rarely too difficult. If Ray is caught by an agent or meets his demise elsewhere, a new copy of him will be printed out from the latest copy machine. These machines function as checkpoints and using them costs nothing.
Unfortunately, replay value is rather low. If you’ve found every secret, which is listed on the chapter selection page, there’s no more reason to play the game. I would imagine playing this again only after a good amount of time has gone by. The length of the game is decent, but I would have loved one or two more chapters. I’m glad, however, the developers didn’t pad Stick it to the Man with any subpar material. A focused game is always a better one.
I really enjoyed this game. With its fantastic story, voice acting and unusual gameplay elements, Stick it to the Man makes for a very positive experience. The flaws can prove irritating, but the stronger aspects more than outweigh the weaker. You definitely won’t regret buying this title.