Review: Stick It to The Man

StickItToTheMan

When it comes to modern platformers, rarely are there many deviations from the gold standard set by the Mario franchise. Rayman has made a gorgeous resurgence with Origins and Legends. Sackboy has made a name for himself with the LittleBigPlanet franchise. But with the constant push towards full 3D worlds, 2D platformers have fallen out of fashion in the mainstream. On the upside, this shift has allowed for smaller indie developers to keep the genre alive by tweaking the formula and mixing traditional platforming together with other genres. Fans of side-scrolling platformers are in for a treat with the release of Zoink Games’ wacky and creative new title Stick It To The Man, available for PlayStation 3 via PSN digital download starting next Tuesday and coming to PlayStation Vita with cross-buy in mid-December. (Publisher Ripstone is currently offering a pre-order discount of 20% off.)

Through an unfortunate construction mishap, a pink spaghetti hand appears out of main character Ray’s head. This cranial noodle gives him the ability to grab stickers in the world and use them to solve puzzles, which in turn progresses the story. The spaghetti strand also allows Ray to latch onto the brains of other characters and hear the thoughts of citizens found throughout each level. Stick It to The Man tells the tale of Ray as he deals with his new power, discovers a sinister plot to take over the world, and explores his past while trying to clear his name and save the woman he loves.

While the story may sound a bit confusing, I can assure you that it flows naturally. What truly makes the narrative compelling is the visual presentation, a paper-craft mix of 3D environments displayed in a 2D side-scrolling perspective where all of the characters are one-dimensional objects. Throughout the game, some of these flat objects turn into stickers which Ray can collect with his pink spaghetti arm. Collecting the various stickers will allow Ray to use them in various ways to help solve problems or puzzles. For example Ray might collect a set of alligator teeth so that he can slap them on a pug’s jaw to scare off some thugs.

While most citizens don’t play a direct role in the story or progression, they help to enhance the overall aesthetic and provide a rich variety of characters to learn about. Clearly a lot of care was put into the overall atmosphere and it would be a shame to not read the thoughts of everyone that Ray encounters. For the most part navigating through the world is simply a matter of jumping up ledges, steps, or other commonplace objects. Each level is quite expansive and there are moments where progressing the story requires you to travel back to an early point in the level. Fortunately there are quick travel “tubes” which unlock once Ray has reached the farthest end of each environment. The game also has a world map that displays all potential minds that can be read, which helps a lot when you’re stumped on what to do next. There were definitely a few times where I found myself at a standstill, unable to figure out what to do or where to go. By reading the minds of apparent random citizens, I found clues or sticker pieces that would often provide the key to moving forward. That is part of the charm that I like so much about Stick It to The Man. The game doesn’t hold your hand, but it does provide plenty of subtle visual clues, so long as you pay attention to the little details.

Reading minds often produces a usable sticker to progress the story. Certain levels have guarding forces (police, nurses, mob thugs) searching for Ray and reading the minds of these enemies will offer a unique opportunity for Ray to temporarily put them to sleep or trick other guards to go after their own. These moments can be a bit tricky as the guards move with quick determination. If Ray is caught, he respawns right away at a Mr. Copy printer which are conveniently found throughout the levels (and most often right next to the guards looking to take out Ray). To help navigate through these heavily guarded sections, Ray’s spaghetti hand can spring out and grab red thumb tacks which act as a means to propel through the world or shift from one section of a level to the next.

As our recent video post highlights, the voice work in the game is performed by a group of very talented actors, with Ty Konzak lending the crew as Ray (and by quick glance at the end credits at least 10 or more other characters). As wild as the story can be at times, the voice acting performances add a high level of polish and believability to an otherwise crazy adventure. The original music is also a treat and builds an atmosphere of zany fun that is catchy and easy to listen to. Of course the main menu music seals the deal by looping the classic Kenny Rogers & The First Edition hit, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).”

Stick It to The Man is a unique and refreshing take on platform puzzle adventures. Visiting a city, the dark recesses of Ray’s mind, an insane asylum and other locales befitting the game’s theme (if I were to reveal them all to you it would only spoil the fun), each new level offers challenges that are different but consistent to the narrative. While the game isn’t overly long (I’d say it’s around six hours or so), each chapter can be replayed once completed so you can go back and read the minds of any citizens that were overlooked initially. Overall, Zoink has done a great job of creating a unique story with fun and inventive mechanics that players are sure to have a blast wrapping their brains around.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Amazing art style
+ Fun mind reading opportunities
+ Great music
+ Humorous story
+ Will eventually offer cross-buy functionality on Vita

Cons:
– The game is fairly short

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3 via PSN, also coming soon to Vita
Publisher: Ripstone
Developer: Zoink Games
Release Date: 11/19/2013
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.