Whenever you play a game, there’s that moment where it finally grabs your attention, though very few titles manage that moment in the main menu. Stick It To The Man, developed by Swedish studio Zoink, manages to do that when the song Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) - which is supposed to be about the drug LSD – starts playing while a paper car drives over a paper road over and over.
Usually you’d just start the game but this time around it felt as though it was wrong to start the bizarre adventure that would follow without listening to the whole song.
Stick It To The Man is best described as a blend of the platformer and an adventure genres, utilising elements from both to create something that feels quite unique. The story follows hard hat tester Ray who, due to circumstances related to things falling on his head, ends up with a pink spaghetti arm extending from his brain. This arm allows Ray to read thoughts and grants him the ability to move objects, eventually getting the attention of The Man and his agents, leading to a series of events taking place in locations such as a town, an asylum and even in the depths of Ray’s brain.
All of this presented in a world made of paper and stickers, with game’s presentation being really good, with enough variation in the scenery to generally make each area take on its own character. You can’t really compare the way the game looks to anything else, with Zoink having created a unique style. There are over 100 different characters whose minds you can read, learning about their own worries and using their thoughts to Ray’s advantage.
This is done by Ray’s ability to take any object someone thinks about out of their thought bubble and apply it in the world during the right situation. It’s a good way to encourage players to read the thoughts of every character that crosses Ray’s path, because you never know which thought will help. Not only is it a good idea to read the thoughts of the characters for this, but these moments are among the game’s best in terms of humour.
The script has been written by Ryan North, one of the minds behind the Adventure Time cartoon, and it brings a personality to the game which makes it entirely bizarre. The voice acting is also superb, with every last bit of dialogue having been voiced in the game, including thoughts. You can tell a lot of work went into getting the characters just right, and their line delivery almost perfect to create an entertaining game.
Gameplay-wise, Stick It To The Man features solid platforming, though it’s not unlike anything you might have experienced before, with Ray having to be guided to different areas using traditional jumping mechanics as well as his spaghetti arm as a hook that can latch onto certain pins to swing to other platforms.
The adventure style aspect of the game is also well implemented with items that can be picked up usually having a rather bold white outline, like a sticker, also highlighted by a faint circle that lights up when the arm is hovering over an item, indicating it can be picked up. Areas where objects can be placed are indicated by a broken circle, which is easy to spot.
The majority of stickers can only be used once and the game won’t let you stick them anywhere outside of their correct areas. These stickers can be of anything from a pair of teeth to a couple of Zs, which can then be placed on an enemy to make them fall asleep for a time.
Areas where you have to get past enemies will require a lot of trial and error to find the right path, as Ray can’t fight the enemies and being caught will take you back to a checkpoint. This isn’t a major setback as the checkpoint system is very generous, with points being placed all throughout stages and not far from each other.
You may have a few issues relating to accuracy when using the arm, its movement controlled by the right analog stick, especially in areas which are crowded with minds that can be read. These are also highlighted the same way objects are, but selecting the correct mind in these crowded areas could be a bit hit and miss, and sometimes I found myself selecting the same mind twice in a row, though you can cancel or fast forward these thoughts.
There were also times when I wasn’t sure what I had to do next to advance. The majority of the game was quite easy to work out but during the Asylum chapter I got stuck, with the next move unclear. It was only by sheer luck that I discovered the way to solve a particular puzzle, and only after walking around the stage over and over until the correct circumstances presented themselves. Though such instances were rare it could go from puzzling to frustrating quite quickly.
While playing Stick It To The Man I did encounter a few bugs, two of which required me to having to reboot the game. The first bug occurred when I couldn’t use an item to advance the story. The item was displayed in the arm’s hand, but was absent from the inventory which meant it couldn’t be used. The second bug made itself known when I was evading an Agent, where I managed to jump over him towards another platform but instead of landing on I fell through it and the world, left floating in a void.
There were a couple of other bugs and errors which weren’t game breaking but were noticeable, with the first being that subtitles didn’t always match up with what was being said. The second involved going past groups of guards and them getting trapped repeating the same noise over and over, even if you were on the other side of a stage, which was distracting and broke the immersion.
Stick It To The Man is such a bizarre and brilliant title overall offering an approximate six hour experience that can’t really be compared to anything else on PS3 or PS Vita. Ray is a really likeable character given life by some great voice talent, along with a decent and funny script.
The game plays well and is very engaging, though there are a couple of points that don’t always make the objective clear. The few bugs and errors are the only things that truly can be considered truly bad with the game, though the arm accuracy could have been tightened up a bit. Overall, it’s definitely a game worth playing.
PS3 version played.