Stick it to the Man!
In Stick it to the Man!, things start off weird and only get weirder. Early on, half-witted, good-hearted construction worker Ray runs into an unfortunate accident and finds himself equipped with an unsightly pink arm atop his noggin’, granting him the ability to read others’ thoughts and move them around from one needy civilian to the next. Does that make any sense?
If not, well, the game does a surprisingly able job of explaining itself. In some ways, it could be considered the long lost cousin of Psychonauts – albeit without a 3D plain. It’s the emphasis on dreamy psychology and comedic goofiness that make that comparison to Double Fine’s much-loved platformer more valid than you might expect. The charmingly whacky and disjointed 2D art style showcases an imaginative side-scrolling plain, stocked full of quirky one-off characters to interact with along the way.
In fact, that’s pretty much the extent of your goals throughout Stick it to the Man!’s four-or-so hour stint. Core gameplay involves exploring every corner of a level to uncover new situations which, in some way or another, will gradually aid Ray along with his own travels. With his aforementioned ability to read the minds of others around him, Ray can utilise one person’s thoughts by removing them as a ‘sticker’ and then apply them to something else in the environment.
It should be noted that most (if not all) of the scenarios presented are patently absurd and often seem like implausible stretches even for a world as cartoon-like and silly as this. It’s part of the appeal, for sure, but some of the conclusions drawn just seem downright dumb, not always in the right way.
Going about this is totally easy. The events you need to chain together to progress tend to be heavily signified, and it’s nigh-on impossible to stray off the beaten path despite being able to move around a level at will. It’s all quite linear and simple, usually allowing the humour to take centre stage. Even so, certain sections where you’re forced to avoid the paths of guards out to hunt you down are tedious at best, highlighting just how much Stick it to the Man! isn’t at its best when acting like a typical platformer.
But that humour is clearly what’s important here. If anything, the linearity of the game makes this even more apparent. It funnels you in the direction of the ‘funny bits’ pretty heavily; there’s nothing in the way of collectibles or any other type of distraction to set your sets on. But is it funny?
Well, yes and no. There’s a clear love for The Simpsons on display here – many of the characters are yellow-skinned. That’s not to say the humour approaches anywhere near the genius of The Simpsons, but the dark-natured and introspective tones exhibited by the game’s series of characters is noticeably inspired. It’s a format that works well in this regard however, and the story sets up some amusing moments right up until the very end. That said, for every joke that tickles there’s another that misses the mark almost completely. Having the option to speed up dialogue at your discretion is commendable, to say the least.
Stick it to the Man! feels like an adventure game on light-platforming wheels. It isn’t entirely concerned with presenting challenge or familiar genre design as it were, but instead makes a bigger fuss over its nutty world and psycho-babbling cast of characters. All told, its peculiarities make for a fun and well-paced trip into cartoon weirdness with just enough of a Tim Schafer tint to pass the grade.
Stick it to the Man! was reviewed on PS3 using a review copy provided by the publishers.
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