Too often, games last longer than they should, and many people don’t have the time to sink 30 hours into a long-winded game. Stick It to The Man is a short, fun side-scrolling adventure that uses the basics to its advantage in order to execute a smooth and enjoyable ride.
Stick It to The Man takes place on a 2D version of earth where the people and buildings are made out of paper and cardboard. When a military airplane is split in two by lightning, the main character, Ray, gets hit over the head by a top-secret military object and passes out. The minute Ray wakes up in a hospital, he discovers that a sticky hand, which allows him to read other people’s minds, is floating out of his head, and he is being chased by a secret organization.
The story is relatively simple, but its comedy is the true star of the show. It’s all based on observational humor, which takes everyday aspects of life and over exaggerates their importance. For example, at one point in the game, a seagull complains about not being able to convey its thoughts through its high-pitched squawks, but then, it rationalizes with itself by stating that each shriek is a beautiful byproduct of its own physical limitations. It’s quite brilliant and hilarious.
The narrative also deals with heavy, adult-oriented subjects such as racism, sexism, depression, sexuality and pregnancy and does so with complete confidence. It’s a game that makes the player realize how absurd life really is, and it’s wonderful.
Another part of the campaign that kept me entertained was its multiple pop-culture references from classics such as Hamlet, Star Trek and Alice In Wonderland. The first line of the narrative alludes to Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Being able to identify with multiple references as the game progressed was a good feeling.
The voice acting is fantastic. All of the characters have unique, memorable accents, which fill the game with life. The quirky score is wonderful and accents the story and gameplay quite nicely. There was one point where the game’s voice acting cut out completely, but after restarting the game, it worked for the rest of the play-through.
Each level consists of standard platforming sections, which involve Ray hopping around to complete a series of connected mini missions. The most intriguing part is that Ray has to read the characters’ minds in order to figure each mystery out. Once the player has heard the riddle, he or she must locate specific stickers and place them with the correct characters. In turn, the stickers will progress the story and change the world’s anatomical structure in really weird ways. For example, there’s a level where Ray borrows a pregnant woman’s stomach and places it on a man. He then takes the fetus’ crying, sticks it on a loud speaker and scares off a scientist, who crashes through a wall and, consequently, helps Ray get to the next part of the level.
Stick It to The Man is primarily about immersion, so there is one enemy type, which occasionally dons different clothing, and the player will never see a game over screen. These henchmen carry zap guns and are implanted with thoughts that Ray can use against them. If a baddie is sleepy, Ray can take the drowsy sticker from its thought bubble, and make it fall asleep by placing that sticker on it. The gameplay becomes a little repetitive after a while, but because the game is so short, it works.
What’s nice about the game is that each level includes multiple checkpoints, quick-travel areas and a full-scale map. Every map shows the player which objectives he or she has completed by either removing the quests from the map or leaving a question mark on the area that has yet to be discovered.
The controls are tight and responsive. Using the sticky hand to pick up stickers or attach Ray to a thumbtack is easy. The inclusion of rock-solid controls allowed me to have a solid experience. The only issue with the gameplay is that the mechanics never change after the first few levels.
Stick It to The Man’s art style is very similar to a Double Fine title. The characters are yellow and lanky, and the world is beautifully dark and twisted. Ray moves like a piece of paper, and that alone is awesome to look at. It also uses a large range of colors, which makes it look gorgeous. It also intrigued me that many of the characters’ heads used the same split-head design as the Canadian characters from South Park.
Stick It to The Man is a superb, philosophically driven parody that includes amusing characters, interesting gameplay and a couple flaws. It’s the best indie title that has crossed my path to date.