If you haven’t heard of Tim Schafer, you’ll definitely be familiar with his work. Schafer has been the creative mind behind the likes of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and Psychonauts – game series that are best known for their fine scriptwriting, jam-packed with dark humour. Based on this, it’s hard to believe that Schafer had no involvement in Stick It to the Man from indie developer Zoink.
Stick It to the Man follows hard hat tester Ray Doewood who, after suffering from a bizarre accident, wakes up with a giant pink spaghetti arm sticking out of his brain. The arm gives Ray new powers, such as the ability to read minds and change the world by transforming his paper universe (by tearing it up and applying stickers). However, he soon finds himself on the run for a crime he didn’t commit.
As you’ve probably gathered from the previous paragraph, Stick It to the Man is quite unorthodox. The script is brimmed full of hilarious references to popular culture and humorous one-liners. Not to mention the zany characters, each of who are fascinating in their own unique way and are excellently voiced by the relatively small cast. This is all brought together by the game’s unique art style, which is best described as a darker Paper Mario, and a memorable soundtrack that complements the overall feel of the title.
At its core, Stick It to the Man combines elements of a 2D platformer with a point-and-click. In order to progress, players need to navigate Ray past guards and over jumps, while the giant pink spaghetti arm acts as a cursor to read minds and interact with the environment (e.g. using pin tacks to reach new areas). The arm can be slightly problematic at times due to its difficulty in differentiating between two objects that have been placed closely together. However, this is only a minor flaw in the grand scale of things.
In addition to the platformer and point-and-click elements, there are also puzzles to be solved. The main storyline has Ray figuring out problems for the residents of the paper town by finding clues, which come in the form of stickers. Once obtained, these stickers are placed on aspects of the environment in order to assist the residents. The puzzles are cleverly interwoven, so the solution to one puzzle can be found within another.
All of this must be completed while avoiding secret agents, who are determined to get their hands on whatever Ray has in his head. While these stealth moments add another dimension to the gameplay, they prove to be more of an annoyance than a worthwhile addition due to their repetitive nature.
Another issue with Stick It to the Man is that it isn’t particularly difficult or challenging on the whole, even during the later stages. Players are more likely to succeed at puzzles through sheer persistence, rather than using logic. This is greatly assisted by the overly-generous checkpoints, which ensure dying is never really an issue.
Nevertheless, Stick It to the Man’s biggest downfall is that it’s a little on the short side. The game’s ten chapters can be finished in approximately four hours and there’s a distinct lack of replayability upon completion (with the exception of the achievements, which rewards players for exploration, as opposed to progression). Whereas this should be expected considering the title’s £6.39 price tag, it does leave players yearning for more and, while the game’s developer has ruled out the possibility of downloadable content, I have my fingers well and truly crossed for a sequel.