Zoink Games’ Stick It To The Man has been around since last year on PS4, but we Xbox gamers have only recently had the game added to the marketplace. The game itself is a puzzle platformer, but definitely has roots in the point and click adventure genre. I am a big Indie supporter and have always stood behind the fact that the Indie scene is the place to find true originality in the gaming world. Stick It To The Man’s originality comes from it’s quirky art style and mixed up use of different genres. You play as Ray, a man that has a somewhat unusual job, he tests hard hats! You go to work everyday and have heavy objects dropped on your head, it’s really no surprise that Ray comes across as a somewhat dim-witted character. One day you are mysteriously hit on the head by some kind of object that falls from the sky, but Ray should be used to that sort of thing by now, it’s in his job description. Waking up in the hospital with the sort of headache you would expect after a stag party. with bandages adorning his head, he soon finds a pink arm, that looks like a noodle with a hand attached, protruding from his skull. It definitely puts a new perspective on the term “using your noodle”, which is exactly what you have to do in this game.
Not only does Ray have a strange job and a weird pink noodle attached to his head but he also lives in a very strange world made up entirely of cardboard, where re-spawning at checkpoints sees you being printed out. Ray’s noodle comes in very handy in this world of paper craft, it performs a number of tasks. Firstly, it helps you traverse the world by grabbing onto pins and pulling you towards them, it also grabs stickers to place in the appropriate puzzle solving parts, and last but not least, it can read minds. That is where the main mechanic of the game comes in. Reading the minds of every character you can will reveal their inner most desires and thoughts giving you the clues to move forward, or revealing a sticker that is needed to solve another part. Once you have the first few tasks done you are unleashed upon the world with your new noodle, where your first task will be to get a lift home. This is not as simple as it sounds as the taxi driver is about to hang himself because he has bad teeth and his girlfriend has left him because of it. So, on you go to remedy this situation solving the puzzle as you go. As much as Stick It To The Man is a puzzle platformer, the platforming aspect of the game is no great shakes, with the more complicated parts being you avoiding the henchmen of the one they call “The Man”. So now you get where the title comes from, Stick It To The Man.
These sections become more of an annoyance than anything throughout the game as Ray’s noodle is somewhat hard to control in fast paced sections. You can read the minds of these enemies, which sometimes reveals a sleep sticker, but then you must choose which one to put into this short slumber. Slapping on the stickers comes with a very satisfying sound and reminds me of giving someone a perfectly timed slap in the face. In fact, throughout the game the voice acting of each and every character you read the mind of is superb, and the developers efforts in this area definitely did not go unnoticed. To be honest Stick It To The Man feels as if it has no real identity, it mixes up a few genres without making an identity of it’s own, it almost seems like a missed opportunity. The slap stick humour is pleasant throughout the game, and is really only broken up by the introduction of the enemies, at times I wanted the noodle to grab one by the neck and roll his paper body into a ball, quickly followed by a swift kick into orbit. At the same time you can understand why the developer introduced them, if only to break up what would have been just a humorous slog, but they should have made the noodle with weapon features where you could at least slap the enemies, sending them into a confusing state allowing you to make your escape. Hell, the amount of times I was seconds from freedom only to grab the wrong pin to be printed out at the start of the section again, would have made tree huggers cry with the amount of paper I used.
Stick It To The Man could have been a very stand out game if more emphasis was put on the platforming aspects of the game, and less on those frustrating enemy sections that serve to do nothing more than make you pull your hair out. Zoink got a lot right with this title, with tremendous voice acting and one liners strewn across the entirety of the game, they even added Kenny Rogers’ Big Lebowski classic “What Condition My Condition Was In” over the menu screen, which I was not expecting, but it definitely works for the game. The art style is great and I loved the visuals. It also may be a little short coming in at around 3-4 hours to complete depending on how many times you have to be printed out. I have to say that I would definitely recommend it to anyone, it’s an enjoyable play, just not a memorable one, with a little more refinement Zoink could get this to being a very memorable one.