Recently, I started up my PlayStation Plus subscription and I decided to see what free games the PlayStation 4 was offering. After downloading Resogun, I found this quirky little game, Stick it to the Man! I had never heard of this game until recently through word of mouth. Since it was free, I decided to check it out. I even asked myself, “What could possibly go wrong?” The result of this lone thought was one of the weirdest games I have ever played. Let us jump into this world of paper craft, mind reading, and all-night-long burrito-eating binges, and review Stick it to the Man!
Our main hero for this story is Ray. He is your everyday civilian with the mundane job of being a hard hat tester. After leaving his job for the day, hopefully with not too many concussions, a cylindrical metal container falls right onto his unprotected head. As Ray begins to slip out of consciousness, a multi-legged individual shuffles up to him, but Ray doesn’t get a good look at the creature before passing out. After waking up, Ray is shocked to find that a magical pink hand is now coming out of his forehead. Ray then sets off on a journey that includes dealing with “The Man” and his goons, random city folk struggling with inner turmoil, and finding out what the heck is causing a pink hand to poke out of his cranium.
Stick it to the Man! is a 2.5D platformer, mixed with a puzzle game. You will run and jump your way through a multitude of levels, which include an insane asylum, a carnival, the city, and a space station. You will even travel through your own mind at certain points of your adventure. How about we talk about that pink magical hand that is sticking out of your head? You will be using that hand to read people’s minds to solve a majority of the puzzles that lay before your paper-thin body. From time to time, the minds of the characters you read from will either give you your next main objective, or give you something that you will need to solve a puzzle with. One example is that I needed to help a guy with getting his giant pet alligator out of the sewer pipes. I read in the alligator’s mind that he wanted a human limb to snack on. In order to make that happen, while listening to some catchy jazz music in the background, I traversed the level to find a chef who was, for some reason, cooking a human limb. I read the chef’s mind and found out that he was looking for another ingredient to make his dish perfect. As I continued to platform my way across the level, I came across another person who was crying over a recent break-up with his girlfriend. I read his mind, and all of a sudden, salty tears appeared in a comic book-style thought bubble. Realizing that they might be the ingredients that the chef needed, I snatched them up. I then went back to the chef, and put those salty tears into his dish. The chef’s dish was now complete, so I grabbed the limb and took it to the alligator, completing the objective. For my reward, I obtained the gator’s set of teeth to use for another puzzle. In a sense, these puzzles are like the inventory-style challenges that you find in a lot of adventure games like Broken Age and The Curse of Monkey Island.
So, what kind of challenge does the game throw at you besides finding the items that the people accumulate while you read their minds? Well, this game is called Stick it to the Man!, which means you will be required to deal with the goons that work for “The Man.” These goons will be placed in certain areas around the level, but there is one catch to dealing with them. You can’t fight them. You might have a magical pink hand coming out of your head, but you can’t defend yourself from those goons with it. This means that the game throws in a simple, but effective stealth system where you need to get past the goons. Even though you can’t hurt them, it doesn’t mean they are completely invincible. If you read certain minds of the goons, they will sometimes make an item appear in a thought bubble above them. These thought bubbles can either be a physical form of sleeping zzz’s, or a picture of your face. You can either slap the zzz’s onto the goon’s face to put him to sleep, or slap your face onto his face to make him a decoy. Between the puzzles and the goons, Stick it to the Man! has 10 levels to go through, and the overall time it will take you beat this game is in the four to six-hour range.
If you took the 3D art style from Psychonaughts, and compressed it down to the 2.5D graphical style of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, you would have Stick it to the Man! It looks great because the character designs are very stylistic. It reminds me of “The Simpsons” if they were drawn by Scott Campbell, the art director of Psychonaughts and Brütal Legend. The soundtrack is filled with jazzy compositions, with a little bit of that Hawaiian background music from “SpongeBob SquarePants.” The writing is also very humorous. It might take a little time for the jokes to really sink in, but for a majority of the game, they work. For example, you get jokes like two Mafia hitmen are named Mario and Luigi, a chess competitor who thought he was in a checkers tournament, a disco dance competitor who loves playing Silver Surfer on the NES, and even the warden of the mental institution Ray gets thrown into has a split personality of a disco dancer who loses himself to dance! The atmosphere this world gives you is one filled with mystery of the unknown. Each time I saw there were new characters, I went into reading their minds not knowing what to expect from their thoughts. The atmosphere also had an unusual vibe to it. It isn’t uncomfortable like in “Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!” or “Invader Zim,” but more in the ballpark of Psychonaughts. Heck, I bet the team that made this game got a lot of their inspiration for the writing and immersion factor from that game. I also like the little detail with the PlayStation 4 version of the game for when you read people’s minds —when you latch onto their brains with your magical hand, the sound of their thoughts come right out of the PlayStation 4 controller.
Unfortunately, like every game ever made, Stick it to the Man! has some faults. Even though the puzzles in this game do have satisfying and funny outcomes, the overall experience is repetitive. All you do is walk around these large levels, read the minds of individual characters, hope to find something to use for a certain puzzle, dodge the goons, and repeat the formula throughout the 10 levels. Thankfully, there are warp points that will take you from one side of the level to another, but there is very little variety in terms of gameplay. There is this one level where you are in Ray’s nightmare and are getting chased by a horde of goons, but that is pretty much it in terms of having variety in level design and gimmicks. I also found the humor to not fully work at the beginning of the game. Some jokes were funny in the beginning levels, but I found most of the humor during that period of the game forgettable. The jokes get better as you go along, but you have to play a few levels for the better ones.
Final Verdict: One weird experience worth checking out
I had a fun time with Stick it to the Man! The game might have had some issues with the humor and the repetitive levels, but it’s a fun game. You can get it on your Wii U, PlayStation 3, PC, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 4. It is only $10 if you don't have PlayStation Plus, and I can recommend this game at that price. While it might not be my favorite game of the year, it is a game I can say with confidence, check it out!