Review: Stick It To The Man (PSN/PSV)
Title: Stick It To The Man
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PSN 2.0 GB / PSV 952 MB)
Release Date: November 19, 2013 (PSN) / December 3, 2013 (PSV)
Publisher: Ripstone Ltd.
Original MSRP: $12.99 (US), £9.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
Stick It To The Man is also available on Steam. It is a Cross-Buy title.
Both the PlayStation Network download and the PS Vita versions were used for this review.
You just know you’re in for something unusual when the opening menu music is an excellent cover of the 1967 song by Mickey Newbury, Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In). It’s so good you feel almost compelled to listen to the whole thing while you stare at the menu watching cardboard animations. Interestingly, the song was written by Newbury to discourage the use of LSD. Something tells me it had the very opposite effect.
Ray is a hard-hat tester. He pursued this line of work because of what happened to his father one day when…no. I won’t spoil it. Suffice to say that in this game as in “real life” there are some series of events which, once put into motion, result in unexpected outcomes. Like the ability to read the mind of a seagull:
“Sometimes I find it frustrating that my vocal chords can only make a screeching, screaming sound but then I think “Man, there’s so much nuance in each screech, so much art!” I pour my soul into the subtle elements of a high-pitched scream and in return I give the world beauty. Such BEAUTY! Also I’m really good at aiming my poops at people’s heads! What can I say? To be an artist is a calling!”
The game is set in a cardboard and paper world so when it rains all sorts of things can go wrong. Stuff just seems to fall from the sky. And when I say say, “stuff”, I mean top secret weapons. And when I say, “sky”, I mean sky. Not everything is cryptic!
Due to a blow to the head, Ray is changed from a normal guy to a normal guy who can read minds, alter the world via sticker-use, pull down paper set pieces and travel the world with the help of his “invisible spaghetti arm” which now grows out of the top of his noggin.
Moving from side to side, jumping, and grappling onto push-pins are the ways to get through the levels in this back and forth side-scrolling puzzle-platformer. Controls are the same on both PS3 and PS Vita. X to jump, L1/2 to read minds, R1/2 to grapple. Left stick to move Ray.
Camera is fixed.
The double entendre of the name of the game involves both our hero’s rise to challenge the authority figures in his world and the gameplay mechanic of literally sticking stickers onto characters in order to influence their behavior or attitude.
Progress through the game is made by helping others meet their needs. You read their minds, find stickers to match their desires and then go stick ‘em up. There are also bad guys who will try to stop Ray. Reading the minds of these ne’er-do-wells and Nurses Ratchet sometimes yields a sticker which can be used against them by making them fall asleep or maybe by tricking them into thinking one of them is you! The ol’ decoy switcheroo, see!
I could rave and rant and go on and on about how much fun this game is but I refuse to spoil anything for you and every minute you spend reading this review is a minute you could have been playing the game! I must say though that the writing is wonderful and quirky and hilarious and works hand-in-glove with the gameplay in an original way that’s quite rare.
I mentioned push pins above because the game world is made to look like cardboard and paper. The lighting, color and animations are striking and whimsical. Character designs are inspired.
There is a difference between the look of the PS3 version and the PS Vita version insofar as the PS3 has a kind of scrimmy, cheese-cloth type filter over it while the PS Vita simply does not. I prefer the PS Vita look. It’s so clean and beautiful.
I have noticed people on the internet likening the character models and overall look of the game to Psychonauts from PS2 days. While I do recognize some similarities, I find more in common between Psychonauts and Danny Phantom than Stick It To The Man.
The voice acting, the music, the sound effects, the ambient sound are all terrific.
This game is single-player only.
Stick It To The Man is my favorite example this year of how to use character and atmosphere to maximum comic effect. It’s a brilliant example of how to pair gameplay mechanics with story in a new and thrilling way.
The game is inexpensive and it’s Cross-Buy. It is simply ridiculous to not own Stick It To The Man and play it on both PS3 and PS Vita.
I may seem surprisingly subdued for someone who has played a game and then used the words brilliant, thrilling, favorite as descriptors. So let me add Holy moly, bat-crap fantastic-land, mushy-brained-dynamo-sauce and finally “One more millimeter and this bad-boy’d've been a 10!!!”
* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.