Game – Stick It To The Man
Developer – Zoink!
Publisher – Ripstone
Platform – Wii U eShop (MSRP $9.99)
Rating – T for Teen
Obtained – Download Code courtesy of Ripstone Publishing
Whenever I get to choose what movie to watch, I always seem to gravitate towards comedies. It’s not that I don’t like horror, action or drama films, it’s that my favourite experiences are ones that make me laugh out loud. Unfortunately, video games that satisfy my comedy cravings are few and far between. Sure, games like Mario and Luigi throw in cheeky dialogue that makes me chuckle, and others have weird premises that are amusing for a while like Goat Simulator, but to me true comedy is about more than that. It involves strongly-developed characters, their interactions with the world around them and a meaningful plot where the jokes come naturally. Fortunately, Stick It To The Man absolutely nails each of these important aspects and combines them with stand-out gameplay and aesthetics.
Stick it To The Man takes place in an odd dystopian reality where everything is made out of paper, cardboard and stickers. The game’s protagonist, Ray, wakes up to find a 16 foot long spaghetti-like arm sticking out of his head that allows him to read and interact with the minds of others as well as the world around him. He soon finds himself being pursued by the minions of a mysterious character known only as “The Man”. Because of the game’s wacky premise it is able to take all kinds of creative liberties that result in truly bizarre situations. Stealing an alligator’s teeth, lighting things on fire, shock therapy and male pregnancy are just a handful of the unpredictable means through which Ray will overcome obstacles. Stick it To The Man’s plot excels because it takes Ray through a variety of ridiculous situations that feel organic within the wonderfully insane world that is established.
Should you stick that hair on the lovestruck zombie so he can impress the woman beside him? Only one way to find out…
Players control Ray with the left analog stick and use the right one to manipulate the arm emerging from his head. This arm can be used in various interactions with the physical world and by holding the left trigger Ray can also use it to read the minds of those around him. Alternatively, players can lift up the GamePad and aim at characters to hear their thoughts. Through manipulating the environment and characters by slapping stickers on them, Ray is able to solve item-based puzzles in order to progress through the game in a fashion similar to adventure games like the Monkey Island series. There are also some very simple platforming and stealth sections where players will need to avoid The Man’s minions and occasionally slap status-altering stickers on them in a strategic fashion. Although these portions can be fun, they don’t evolve very much over the course of the game and end up interfering with the flow of the far more interesting puzzle sections.
Stick It To The Man’s humour is incredibly successful for a number of reasons. It’s amusingly self-aware, as Ray constantly makes observations about the flat paper world around him and both acknowledges and accepts the various oddities he encounters. As well, the game offers up an interesting and varied cast of characters that includes doctors, magicians, evil rabbits, gorillas and ghosts each with their own unique personality traits. While you might expect some of them to be throwaway one-off characters, many will reappear later on in the story in situations that perfectly suit their various quirks. An added benefit is that the game is fully voice-acted. There’s something special about listening to a seagull poetically express how each of his squawks is a beautiful work of art, which could never truly be accomplished with text. Because of its endearing characters and ridiculous scenarios, Stick It To The Man may be the closest video games have come to emulating animated sitcoms (except, perhaps, for video games based on animated sitcoms). As an avid fan of Futurama and The Simpsons, the game’s jokes hit all the right notes with me.
“Hey, what are you doing here? This is MY hypnotically-induced fantasy land!”
From the opening scene up until the credits roll, Stick it to The Man is almost consistently excellent, save for the (infrequent) stealth and platforming areas. The fluid integration of narrative into gameplay makes Ray’s adventure all the more enticing, and it’s very likely that you’ll lose track of time as you become absorbed by the compelling plot, endearing characters and off-the-wall humour.
Final Score: 8.5/10
+ Hilarious and well-written story
+ Great voice acting
+ Beautiful papercraft art style
+ Entertaining and unique “spaghetti arm” mechanics
– Platforming/stealth sections feel underdeveloped