Stick It To the Man! Review

By Darryl Kaye on May 5, 2014

The PlayStation 4 has been a bustling place for indie titles since its launch. Some of them are completely original titles, but others like Stick it to the Man! have already appeared on a Sony platform and are now making their way over. It's a good thing too, because the creativity is there for all to see. From the art styles to the melding of different genres, these indie games are bringing new elements to the table and Stick it to the Man is no exception, fusing together platforming with puzzle solving.

The game's story focusses on Ray who spends his life testing safety helmets. The ironic twist is that on the fateful day that the game showcases, something lands on his head that will change his life forever. Upon waking, Ray notices that now only does he have a huge purple arm protruding from his head (that only he can see), but he also has the ability to read people's minds "“ quite the change in lifestyle.

Worried about his sanity, Ray attempts to seek out a psychiatrist. It's a decision that sets even more wheels in motion as not only does he end up in an insane asylum, he also has to contend with "The Man", a villain who wants to claim the power for his own evil schemes.

There's a very sadistic side to the experience and it means the narrative, like the art style, is rather bonkers. But that's part of its charm. You will meet tons of NPCs in each level and they all have their own distinct personalities and problems, which is where the puzzle element comes in. There is always an end goal, which is often quite clear, but how you go about achieving that is anything but. However, as you start helping people with their rather odd issues, everything starts to unfold quite quickly and you will be on your merry way.

This is all achieved through the game's sticking mechanic. While there are some items you can pick-up from the stage, quite often you will need to take items from people's thoughts. It's only by reading their minds that you can understand what item they either need or can offer you to help someone else. For example, there's a very droll hare who wants more from his life. You can help him to think about achieving this by giving him idea stickers, which gets him onto thinking about an expansive tea set. You can then take that idea sticker and apply it to a real-world scenario to expand the story.

It's quite a neat system, but it falls down due to its simplicity. Perhaps it's due to the age we live in, but the game does an awful lot to hold your hand and in some ways, it degrades the experience. On every stage, you are offered a world map that tells you who you have and haven't interacted with; it also tells you actions that are required following the initial conversation. It means the longest part of the stage is talking to people for the first time, as after that there's no real challenge in figuring out what you need to do next. The sad part is that you don't even need to listen to what people have to say most of the time as they are either going to give you something anyway, or require something you already have. You can then glean all you need to from the more mandatory scenes that transpire after items have been provided.

Aside from the puzzle solving, platforming is another of the core components, but it isn't too expansive. It is used to navigate around the levels, but comes to the fore when you are trying to get past agents or medical staff. Here, you will need to use tactics such as being able to sleep or confuse guards while also covering large distances by using your purple arm to grab onto thumb tacks. With some simple forward planning these don't offer too much, but it can act as a nice distraction.

Perhaps the game's best trait is its flair. This comes in the form of the writing, but also the art style. The game has no qualms with tackling some rather sadistic subjects, but also has the main villain being coddled by his mother. It's that twisted kind of humour that is by no means laugh out loud funny, but will see you generating a wry smirk here and there.

In terms of replay value, Stick it to the Man! doesn't offer all that much. The game can be completed in around 3-4 hours and after doing so, all that's left is to try and read the minds of the few people you missed the first time around. It's a bit disappointing, but it's hard to see how this could have been any different.

Final Thoughts

Stick it to the Man! has a very distinctive art style and written form that in itself deserves some praise. It offers some decent platforming and a unique take on the puzzle solving genre that revolves around mind reading. Unfortunately, it holds the player's hand a bit too much and it means there's almost no challenge in figuring out what to do, something that makes the experience a little unrewarding.

Wry sense of humour.
Listening to people's thoughts can be fun.
The people in the insane asylum.
Puzzle solving is too simple.
Not much replay value.
Platforming element doesn't really develop.
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