Stick It to the Man Review
Posted by Greg Giddens
"I know what you're thinking"
Stick It to the Man wonderfully treads the line between dark and silly. It's Ren and Stimpy-esque aesthetic is plopped on top of a paper craft construction, which gives it a unique and endearing look that brings each character – whether it be human or otherwise – to life in a surreal and smile inducing way. Add to that that some exceptional writing and voice acting, and you have yourself an adventure game of real substance and style.
You take on the role of Ray, a safety helmet tester who spends his day getting hit on the noggin by objects and rating how protective his headwear is. On his way home from work, the unfortunate hero is struck by a mysterious crate that falls from a plane. One weird dream later, and the protagonist awakens with a strange spaghetti like arm protruding from his head. With it, he can swing on pins to reach platforms, peel loose paper from the cardboard cut-out world in which he resides, grab and place stickers, and best of all, read people's minds.
In fact, it's not just people's minds Ray can read: it's all manner of creatures. Birds, dogs, and more can't help but give up their inner secrets as the pink spaghetti arm latches on to their brains and siphons off their thoughts for the star to hear. Zany psychiatrists, vain lovers, moronic secret agents, and canines with a feeling of inadequacy make up but a few of the personalities that you'll meet, and they're all delightfully deranged. Brilliantly written dialogue with equally terrific delivery brings each character to life.
The mind reading makes up the majority of your actions in Stick It to the Man, and the aforementioned hilarious writing and high quality voice acting do a splendid job of making every second of it enjoyable. If this was simply an interactive eavesdropping simulator, the game would already be a marvellous experience, but Stick It to the Man is in fact a point and click adventure title with spots of platforming. Navigating the platforms is the weakest part of the experience, but only due to the jumping. It's a floaty and inaccurate mechanic, which can lead to a fair few deaths as you plummet into the below abyss. Fortunately, checkpoints are generously spread out through each of the ten chapters, and the world in which Ray is printed and cut out makes respawning into the cardboard setting a treat. The process is also instant, and there's no penalties for death, so the occasional missed jump is barely even a nuisance.
Using your wiggly limb to swing to pins and platforms, on the other hand, is fast and smooth, so manoeuvring through each chapter is mostly simple. This is especially useful when poor Ray is being hunted. As it turns out, the mysterious crate that drops on our hero's head is wanted by a shadowy organisation, which is now pursuing the protagonist and proclaiming to the world that he's dangerous. Their mission means that they tend to block your path and give chase if they see you. However, your spaghetti-swinging usually makes easy work of evading them, and you can use stickers that you've grabbed to help get past them. Reading people's thoughts sometimes conjures decals which you can pull from their mind and then use on other characters. For example, a tired figure may think of sleep, which you can grab and place on an agent that's standing in your way to send them off to dreamland.
There are plenty of obstacles for you to overcome in order to progress, and this is where further mind reading and point and click adventuring comes in. These puzzles require you to read the minds of the characters in the chapter and fetch the objects that they crave. In good old adventure game tradition, each stage is a chain reaction of characters requiring objects that cascade as you figure out each need and want. There's the odd instance of peculiar design that may stump you temporarily, but a little trial and error will get the job done if need be. However, there are several personalities in each chapter that aren't part of the puzzles, and are simply there to distract you. It's rather brilliant really – you begin solving a conundrum only to get caught up in the strange ramblings of completely irrelevant characters, which can subsequently keep you glued to the title for extended periods of time.
Stick It to the Man is a great title that oozes charm, intelligence, and humour. It's hard not to recommend, even if it does have very limited replayability. Indeed, once you've worked your way through the campaign and heard all of the dialogue – as great as it is – there's very little left to do. Still, it's an essential purchase for those who fondly remember the quirky adventure games of old, especially if you're after something a little out of the ordinary.