Stick It To The Man! Review
I've often said there isn't much worse a fault than when a game tries to be funny and fails miserably. Unfortunately, this is more often than not when games make and attempt at humor. Bulletstorm would have been a really fun shooter if we weren't constantly beat over the head with genital and bathroom humor than didn't even draw out a single smile. The list goes on and on... Postal, BMX XXX, even some of the later Tony Hawk games seemed to think they were a laugh riot, but in truth the groan inducing "humor" actually detracted from the skating. Which brings us to Stick It To The Man, a 2D puzzle platformer from developer Zoink!. When I first started this off the wall adventure, I was sure it was going to be one of those painfully unfunny games. By the time I had finished, I had a totally different view; not only is Stick It To The Man as funny as it thinks it is, its funnier. And, on top of that, it is one of the most entertaining games on Nintendo's eShop.
The setup and tutorial, told through an "am I on drugs?" dream sequence gets players right into things. Ray Doewood, our hero, is a normal guy who just happens to get bonked on the head by a mysterious canister that falls from a plane. In his line of work, hard-hat testing, it's no big deal, right? It isn't, until the next morning, when Ray awakens to find that he is now the proud owner of a giant pink appendage that is growing directly out of the spot he was hit. Worse yet, The Man (the capitals aren't for emphasis; the game's main antagonist is actually named "The Man") is after poor Ray and wants him taken down for a murder he didn't commit. It's a clever setup and perfectly frames the lunacy that follows, and Stick It To The Man bounces expertly from one genuinely funny scenario to the next right up until the end. If you ever wanted to talk to the Loch Ness Monster about "tight beats," the Stick It To The Man is the game for you.
The gameplay here is part platformer, part puzzle game, part Metroidvania adventure and part Paper Mario: Sticker Star. You control Ray as he bounces around his 2D world, but the pink appendage is what will do most of the heavy lifting. It has two main functions - collecting stickers and reading minds. Like Sticker Star, you'll need to collect these stickers and place them in the correct places to advance. This can be anything from changing an NPC's thoughts to manipulating the environment, and most of these puzzles have coherent, interesting solutions. And even though the game is split into chapters, Ray will unlock new paths that allow him to backtrack and collect items and stickers that were previously unreachable. The main adventure isn't long (about 8-10 hours) and the game has little replay value, getting from point A to point B stays interesting throughout and doesn't wear out its welcome.
To go along with the game's humor, the art style here is off-putting at first, but quickly becomes a major positive. Everything in Stick It To The Man, from characters to plot to environments, has a bizarre Tim Burton feel to it. And to go along with the sticker idea, it looks as though Ray's entire adventure has been crafted from cardboard. You might think would give a Little Big Planet vibe, but its doesn't. Stick It To The Man's visuals don't celebrate the world's construction as an art form, it just is as it is. The game is strange all the way through, but it doesn't wallow in the fact that it looks a lot different from other platformers, and is all the stronger for it.
Though the game first appeared on Sony consoles, I can't imagine playing it on anything but the Wii U. Off-TV play is available and easy to switch on the fly, but the best function comes with the Gamepad's touch screen. If you play the game on other consoles (except Vita, possibly), I imagine you'll control Ray with one analog stick and the pink appendage with another. On the Wii U, the appendage can be controlled entirely by the touch screen, making things feel smoother and more intuitive. Hunting for a needed sticker or solution is far less tedious when you can just point to the area you want searched, rather than having to control two essentially separate entities at once. And I'll say it again - any game that appears on multiple platforms, I'm always going to go with the Wii U version provided it supports off-screen play. Even better if it utilizes the touch screen as well. Stick It To The Man does both excellently.
With a description like "comical puzzle platformer," Stick It To The Man had too many potential pitfalls for me to be excited to play it. Unfunniness, nonsensical puzzles or bad physics are all problems we've seen with games like this one. My tune changed when I watched the end credits. Stick It To The Man is a great downloadable titles with plenty of actual laughs and some engaging gameplay to match. With so much that could have gone wrong, you owe it to yourself to check out the game that got so much right.
Final Rating: 82%. Stick to it and you'll be laughing in the end.