When I first saw that Stick It To The Man! was coming to the PS4 as May’s PS+ instant game I have to say I was a little disappointed. Most rumours leading up to the announcement had indicated Octodad would be the next game in an outstanding line-up of games. I mean, after all, who doesn’t want to take on the role of a secret octopus? However, I didn’t let the lack of Cephalopod related shenanigans deter me from playing Stick It To The Man! and after taking on some humanoid paper adventures I’m glad I didn’t.
Stick It To The Man! is a platform-adventure game that combines puzzle solving elements with narrative story telling. Players take on the role of Ray, an dim-witted guy who lives in a world made of paper. Ray’s seemingly dull life as a hard-hat tester is suddenly interrupted when, through no fault of his own, he is endowed with a magical pink spaghetti hand that has the power to read minds and manipulate Ray’s paper world. Unsurprisingly, Ray’s new power soon finds him landing in trouble; he is pursued by ‘The Man’, a shadowy figure who acts as the games main antagonist. While avoiding The Man’s henchmen as well as several other dangers Ray must use his new found power to save himself and his loved ones.
To start the player is given the basic platform controls of directional movement and the ability to jump. Making fairly simplistic jumps for the first five minutes tends to be the extend of player interaction as the game builds the beginning of the story. The lack of heavy involvement gives players the chance to learn basic mechanics without being overloaded with controls, bringing the focus onto the story. Once the player has mastered the art of jumping like around like Shaquille O’Neal on Red Bull, they are given the control of the new abilities afforded by Ray’s pink spaghetti hand. These abilities include the power to grapple onto pink and green drawing pins (in-keeping with the paper theme) that are scattered across each level. Pink pins help players manoeuvre around the level when a standard jump won’t suffice, while green pins act as teleportation devices that make traversing levels and completing objectives significantly easier. Movement in Stick It To The Man! is fluid and using pins tactically does not take to much practise to master. Players will soon be grappling and swinging around the map in Spiderman Style, only they are made of paper, with a pink telekinetic hand web, and instead of a glamorous New York back drop your in a criminally insane world that makes Fear and Loathing look like a pretty summer picnic. Aside from these subtle differences the movement is similar to Spiderman 2 (PS2) as getting around the level and finding objectives is simple resulting in little frustration for the player. Perfect for the gamer who normally spends the majority of platform games repeatedly circling areas, completely clueless, unable to progress.
Other powers that Ray has from his third hand are the ability to mind-read and use stickers to interact with the paper environment. Reading minds is necessary to advance the story, but it is not required that you read every single mind you encounter. This rather passive gameplay style of gathering information is kept engaging by the humorous inner monologues of the bizarre characters that surround Ray. However, gathering stickers is a more tedious process due to the doubling up of controls, in this case shared by sticker functions and pin grappling. At times frustration will set in when you try to harness a sticker from an NPC’s mind only to swing yourself away on a drawing pin. This is even worse when you try to take a sticker from an enemy only to swing straight into their arms. This is when I go from playing Stick It To The Man! to sticking my controller through the TV screen.
In terms of narrative, from start to finish Stick It To The Man! provides a comedic journey that actually provides honest laugh-out-loud moments that are few and far between in modern videogames. The unique style of brilliantly self-aware humour is a perfect fit for the surreal paper world, alleviating the tensions of what could be construed as rather depressing affair, devoid of fun. The story develops in a rapid fashion without explaining to much detail which is great for those looking for light-hearted entertainment, but not so enjoyable for others who want a deep narrative based title. Players can expect to complete the game within 2-3 hours and collect any missed trophies with another hours work. The single player mode is the only one available and inevitably the game lacks re-playable value.
Music and Sounds
The music in Stick It To The Man! is a wonderful mash-up of abstract sounds and roaring twenties jazz. The result is an entertaining soundtrack that is a surprising combination of catchy and unsettling. Often I would find myself humming along only to notice what I’m doing and realising I have been drawn into a world full of madness. The theme song is also rather fittingly entitled Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, recognisable from the film The Big Lebowski and the game Driver 2.
Being set in a paper world gives Stick It To The Man! an understandably distinct aesthetic style. The animation looks like pieces of card layered to give the impression of depth similar to the design of South Park. Zoink! have used this style to their advantage engineering some comedic moments, using stickers to change appearances of characters. The majority of characters are designed to produce laughs and add to the overall humorous nature of the game. Ray, for example, has arms disproportionate to the rest of his body, mimicking tentacles (who needs Octodad?). This means Ray’s appearance is always comical thanks to his gangly body and, of course, the pink hand protruding from his forehand.
The colours of the game also help appease the eyes with flashes of neon livening the more dull, drab tones that feature in the background. The use of colour also helps the player recognise important character and areas by making them stand out from their surroundings. Imagine Paper Mario set in the Blade Runner universe.
Stick It To The Man! is a wonderful addition to the PS+ instant game collection. The story is enjoyable, the mechanics solid, and the graphics charming. Topped off with brilliant wit and a loveable protagonist this is an indie title worth a try by all PS4 owners and even more so for those gamers looking for light bites of gaming entertainment. A comedic indie title that is extremely fun to play? Time to turn that Octopus into calamari.