As I mentioned in my First Impressions article a couple days ago, Stick It To The Man had no real appeal to me at first. In fact, I wasn’t even considering playing it. However, when I heard it would be free from PlayStation Plus for PlayStation 4 owners in May, I knew I had to download it and at least give it a chance. After all, for free, it was only the smart thing to do. Stick It To The Man ended up doing something amazing. This game took me, (who went into the game with a negative outlook), on an adventure that I truly enjoyed. Never before has my outlook on a game been so drastically changed in the course of one playthrough, whether for better or for worse. In this case, it is truly better. Stick It To The Man is a fun, enjoyable platformer/puzzler with a heavy influence on story and great dialogue. This entertaining and quite goofy tale is surely one that should be tried, as it is available on all current Sony systems, plus PC and Wii U, making it accessible to a large percentage of gamers.
Stick It To The Man puts you in the shoes of Ray, a hard hat tester. On his way home from work one day, he gets hit in the head by a package that falls out of a cargo plane due to a terrible storm. Since Ray isn’t wearing a hard hat at the time, this hit knocks him out cold. In his state of unconsciousness, he ends up in a dream world where he accidentally helps a strange creature take control of his brain. When Ray wakes up, he finds a pink arm sticking out of his head that only he can see. This arm can help him immensely, allowing him to grapple, read minds, and pick up stickers for use later.
The use of the arm is a very unique foray into both the puzzler and platformer genres. I’ll start now by saying that without the help of this arm, the game would be vastly different. The arm lends itself very well to the style of the game, which is story focused. Because the arm can read minds, more of the story can be unlocked, and more of the story is required for progress, as the thoughts of NPCs can sometimes contain stickers to advance through the level. This mind-reading ability is definitely the most impressive and useful function of Ray’s pink arm, but it isn’t the only one.
The arm grabs and places stickers on certain points in the game. This is essential for progress because each level plays out like a gigantic domino effect. For example, at one point I had to place a chimney on a toilet to allow Santa to dive through it to find Rudolph. When Rudolph is found, I can rip his nose off as a sticker and place it on a bomb apparatus. The bomb is then primed for explosion, so I grab it as a sticker and place it on a nearby door to blow it up and create an exit! In that level, so many other stickers are used to get to that point, and many other stickers are used after that point. I love the way that all the stickers have a purpose, and all come together to create one masterpiece in each level. It is immensely satisfying to find a sticker and think “I know EXACTLY where that goes!”
Each sticker leads to more of the story, which is surprisingly enjoyable. In my First Impressions, I stated that the story was coming across as overpowering, and I disliked that. However, as I played through more of Stick It To The Man (which clocked in for me between four and five hours long), I realized that I truly enjoyed the story, and the cutscenes were fun to watch. Really, the game was so goofy that it came across as charming and engaging. I loved the distinct, kooky accents that each NPC boasted, and it really helped set each one apart. I loved the witty and ironic dialogue that kept me giggling throughout. On that note, the voice acting is absolutely superb! Aside from that, I loved the art style which infuses a LittleBigPlanet-esque paper theme with a gritty version of The Simpsons. It was so unique that I couldn’t help but enjoy it.
Really, everything about Stick It To The Man can be described as different, strange, bizarre, creative, inventive, or odd. Just about any element of the game can be seen as stupid or pure genius depending on how you look at it. I think the bizarreness is creativity shining through. When in the same game you’ll find that alien cab drivers have Indian accents, a gorilla can help drive a spaceship, a lobotomist can have a son who ironically becomes a psychiatrist, a zombie can fall for a living nurse, an alligator can lose his teeth and a lap dog can gain them, and an alien can live inside your brain, it’s truly a feat to have it all come together as a cohesive, genius, work of art. A similar game could easily fall apart as odd and all-over-the-place, but Stick It To The Man creates a truly amazing adventure where everything is fun and actually makes sense.
The art style and story really won me over. I’m not the biggest proponent of indie games and developers, mainly because of the overwhelming use of throwback 8-bit graphics and cliched gameplay styles. I often skip indie games because of one or both of these traits. Stick It To The Man follows neither of these paths, instead bringing a new art style to the playing field along with a fun, story driven experience. As a huge fan of stories in gaming, I can gladly say that this story ranks among my favorite because it’s unique yet not overly complicated. At the same time, it isn’t cliche, and it isn’t boring or drawn out. Not to mention, the characters are all unique and well-rounded; none are flat and boring. Dare I say that the story is nearly perfect!
Unfortunately, there is one portion of Stick It To The Man that lags behind a bit. The platforming is obviously not the focus of the game, and it is a bit lackluster at times. Trying to juggle puzzle elements with platforming elements and a good story in a game is rough, and the issue is manifested in the slightly simplified platforming. Is it a legitimate issue? No, not quite; the levels are scaled so that not much platforming is necessary, yet you’re not walking on flat ground too much either. (Though I do love where Ray somewhat breaks the fourth wall and comments about how getting home requires so much jumping.) In the end, it’s really a player-to-player issue, as some will find this to be more of an issue than others; I don’t think it’s much of a problem.
Graphically, Stick It To The Man is quite impressive. The 2.5D environment is well designed, and it all looks top notch. Of course, this game isn’t bringing the intense graphics of AAA games with insane budgets, but again, that isn’t the point. As it is, Stick It To The Man is very well designed in the graphics department.
The soundtrack does the job, and I can’t say anything bad about it. In my mind, it’s not a standout, but it isn’t bad either. I would say it’s the average soundtrack, but that’s just my opinion. As far as audio goes, Stick It To The Man utilizes the speaker inside the DualShock 4 controller, which I absolutely love! I can choose to hear the thoughts of NPCs through the controller as I read their individual minds, and it causes the game to become more immersive.
The controls are tight and well done, just as is necessary in any platformer, no matter how intense the platforming is. I never died due to not being able to reach a platform, or because a certain movement didn’t initiate, etc. The only place one might find the controls lacking would be when three or four brains are in close proximity to one another. Reading the correct mind can be difficult with the thumbstick, but never fear; the PS4 touchpad is here! If you can’t navigate well using the thumbstick, the DualShock 4’s touchpad can be used for precision movement when selecting brains or other objects. I’m not sure what precise movement tools are available on other systems (though I’m supposing one can use the touchscreen on Wii U or Vita), but I’m very glad that a viable option is here on the PS4.
The HUD is very minimal, showing no indicators aside from small circles where points of interest are located. A map is accessible using the Square button, and it shows where points of interest and brains are located. I found this very useful when navigating multi-level missions.
In the end, there really doesn’t seem like there is much to do when you finish Stick It To The Man. If you’re a perfectionist, you can try to read all the brains and knock off a few tasks for trophies, but there’s not really much else to do once the story is concluded. On that note, the story has a wonderful conclusion and even ends with a great piece of story and dialogue that I had come to expect! Definitely play through to the end.
At the end of the day, Stick It To The Man is a charming game with a goofy twist. It’s really unique, and I’ve not played anything quite like it before, which is a true breath of fresh air. I’m very glad I tried this one out, and I recommend it to you as well. I award Stick It To The Man a score of 8.5. It’s one of my favorite titles of the year so far, and I’m thankful that PS+ gave me an incentive to download the game. Do yourself a favor and do the same!
(Stick It To The Man is out for PS Vita, PS3, PS4, PC, and Wii U)