While Stick It To The Man is an older title, I wanted to review it before jumping into Zoink’s more recent release: Flipping Death. They share a lot of similarities and I wanted to be able compare them as needed. Also, I didn’t want to miss out on any clever references that are without a doubt hidden in the “sequel”.
In StickIt (as it will henceforth be called) we play as Ray, a regular run-of-the-mill guy who gets in an accident and ends up with an alien in his head. This gives him special powers like mindreading and changing the world using metaphysical items conjured by people’s thoughts. Obviously this is an ability craved by powerhungry villains, which is where “The Man” comes into play, as the titular bad guy gives chase and wants to capture whatever is inside Ray’s cranium and use it for… well, evil.
Ray’s newfound powers are what the entire game revolves around and it does make for an interesting mix of gameplay elements. First of all there’s the ability to read minds. By doing so, you get to know more about the world’s characters and the info you gather through this method is essential for figuring out what to do next. Most of these puzzles are Rube Goldberg machinations though, so you’ll have to take it step by step and you won’t really know how it will play out unless you solve them in the most ridiculous ways possible.
What’s more, some of these thoughts will manifest itself into stickers you can grab. Place these in the right locations and the game will progress (or you’ll advance towards earning one of the clever achievements)
One decision I can appreciate is how you can grab multiple stickers and carry them around. An easy trap to fall into here would have been to force Ray to swap stickers and thus fake the game into being a longer experience than it needs to be, by making us backtrack too often.
There’s also a minor bit of platforming involved here and there, with Ray’s pink spaghetti arm allowing you to grab pins and slinging you there. (that’s a phrase I didn’t think I’d ever have to utter). The problem is that these pins are sometimes just out of sight and when this happens you don’t get the impression it was intentional. Since we’re mostly moving around from left to right in a pseudo-2D world there aren’t any issues with depth of field but the actual jumping doesn’t feel as accurate as I would want it to be. Luckily, it’s not often that you’ll jump to your death and a checkpoint is never far away.
There’s no combat in StickIt, other than avoiding the agents. You can read their minds and grab stickers to put them to sleep or one that can be used to slap Ray’s face on one of them and have them chase each other, but their placement is sometimes frustrating and I found myself annoyed more than once.
Graphics & Audio
If there is one thing immediately striking about StickIt, then it’s the cardboard cutout elements. Everything looks like it’s made out of flat paper, moving around in a 3D world. I’ve been a big fan of this type of visual approach ever since I first saw it in a Paper Mario title and I think it’ll never get old. Adding to the flair is the crude cut every object seems to have, as if a kid cut it out and was too scared to get near the drawn lines. It’s absolutely charming!
The other major element is its hilarious sense of humour. I’ve actually laughed out loud on several occasions and had a grin on my face throughout my playthrough. The voice actors deliver their lines with perfect timing and they’re all quirky enough to stand out from one another. If you feel they should speak a little faster though or if you have already heard a line, you can even fast forward their text and get a Chip & Dale chipmunk voice as a result. Cute ^^
The puzzles themselves are often a source of laughter as well. With objects being used in manners you wouldn’t dare think up yourself.
It often reminded me of Double Fine’s Psychonauts (mostly because of the mind-reading an humour) but the developers wear this inspiration on their sleeve: I even spotted Double Fine’s two headed bee logo in the game!
The biggest issue I’ve heard others had with the game, is that it runs a little short but I personally think the pacing is spot on and the game is just long enough that it doesn’t outstay its welcome. It was never an expensive title and even with one playthrough you should get your money’s worth out of the experience. I’ll probably even go back to it a few years down the line to mop up the final achievements I missed.
Stick it to the Man is a witty, humouristic title with a striking cardboard aesthethic. The jokes are genuinely funny and the puzzles play themselves out in ways you didn’t see coming. It may only be about 5-6 hours long, but you’ll have a good time from start to finish.