There seems to be a growing sentiment that the monthly PlayStation Plus indie offerings on the PlayStation 4 are not good enough. It is truly a shame, as Contrast, Don’t Starve, Outlast, Dead Nation, and Mercenary Kings have provided countless hours of entertainment to subscribers. RESOGUN, arguably the console’s best game, is still available to PlayStation Plus subscribers who have yet to download Housemarque’s shoot-’em-up gem. Although a bona fide AAA title has yet to grace the list of free monthly offerings, Stick it to The Man!‘s quirky humor and appealing story will satisfy a great deal of PlayStation Plus subscribers.
• Developer: Zoink!
• Publisher: Ripstone
• Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
• Also Available On: PlayStation 3, PS Vita, PC, Wii U
• Release Date: Available Now
Set in a world made entirely of paper and cardboard, Stick it to The Man! tells the story of Ray, a perpetually perplexed hardhat-tester whose world suddenly changes in an outright bizarre way. During his platforming-filled commute home, a bizarre capsule hits him on the head, causing him to fall into a coma. During his unconscious state, he discovers that a long, spaghetti-like pink arm is protruding from his skull. Not only does this arm give him the power to access new areas through the use of randomly-placed thumbtacks, but he also gains the ability to read minds. The Man, the previous owner of the mind-reading power, chases Ray throughout the four-hour campaign, as he wants to use the telepathic powers to take over the world. It’s a fresh, unique take on the “bad guy wants to own the planet” trope, as its style of humor makes Stick it to The Man! feel unlike anything else.
The papercraft world is beautiful in its own bizarre way. While not as visually appealing as Tearaway, Stick it to The Man! is always consistent in its presentation. When Ray dies, he respawns through a printing press, complete with a cut-out effect to take him from simple drawing to standard humanoid form. Everything is in 2D, which makes the bizarre animations and humorous art-style all the more appealing. Stick it to The Man! feels like the world’s most bizarre shoe-box diorama; its curious scale and detailed backgrounds are truly a sight to behold.
Its greatest strength is its zany humor, blending jokes at the expense of video game and movie tropes with off-the-wall defecation quips. Each character seems to speak more ridiculously than the last, leaving you gut aching constantly during your play through. Stick it to The Man! never takes itself too seriously, leaving players with an experience that feels outrageously fresh. The enemy thoughts are extremely humorous, with some regretting spending the entire previous night eating burritos and others making remarks about how they want to chase someone who is not as quick as Ray. The enemies are woefully stupid, but in an intelligently-designed way, which makes the “dumb goon” cliche humorous once again.
Blending unique, contextual puzzles with classic platforming, Stick it to The Man! is a joy to play. Ray’s long, pink arm allows him to grab onto the aforementioned thumbtacks, giving him access to previously unreachable platforms. The game’s ten chapters involve moseying around these open areas, reading the minds of various people. Sometimes reading someone’s mind will reveal something that Ray can do to fix that person’s particular issue, such as giving a sad, old dog some new chompers; other times, it will simply cue some bizarre dialogue, entertaining you for a few seconds. Easily the best use of Ray’s telepathic powers is the ability to grab a tangible sticker out of someone’s mind. At one point, a rabbit envisions a tea party, which allows you to grab said tea party and place it on an empty table. Using these thought-items allows you to solve puzzles, and thus progress.
Each puzzle will have an overarching issue that needs to be accomplished before you move on. Perhaps Ray needs to sneak past a sheriff or charm someone; he might have to escape a sticky (no pun intended) or wake up from a playable dream. The objectives are as entertaining as the story, as you never truly know which portion of the puzzle will ultimately be the final piece. Placing a sticker on one person could open up an opportunity to place stickers on a great deal of their peers. Experimenting with the minds of various people allows you to slowly figure out exactly how Ray will fix each dilemma he finds himself in.
This experimentation brings up the one issue Stick it to The Man!‘s puzzle design has. Technically speaking, you don’t actually have to solve any of the puzzles, as simply walking around and reading everyone’s mind will allow you to eventually move on. Collecting every sticker and testing them in every spot will allow players to eventually find the right fits, meaning that mental acuity is not needed to complete the game. Stick it to The Man! never has that “Ah-ha!” moment, as a heavy emphasis on trial-and-error gameplay largely removes problem-solving from the game.
Evading enemies is easily the most frustrating aspect of Stick it to The Man!, as these ill-conceived stealth sequences can often feel clumsy. Ray will have to essentially drop everything he is doing to make it through a maze of goons without being caught. If he falls within an enemy’s line of sight, a chase sequence ensues, and moving through these areas becomes increasingly difficult. Later in the game, as more enemies appear in each section, these sections turn into a bona fide chore. Ray might have to tap into the mind of a sleepy goon to get a “ZZZ” sticker, but will fall right in the line of sight of another foe. Making these sections more annoying is the fact that a chase can begin without your knowledge, as the blurry telepathy screen prevents the player from seeing his surroundings. These sequences will cause most players to become frustrated, which is a shame because they detract from the brilliant world surrounding them.
Stick it to The Man! will charm a large number of PlayStation Plus subscribers this month, as it is a unique experience that would be worth the money on its own. The fact that you are able to get this for free means that this is a title you cannot possibly pass up if you have a PlayStation 4. It is nearly impossible not to smile during a play through of Stick it to The Man!, as there is something funny in it for all audiences. Do yourself a favor and give it a shot, you will likely thank yourself afterwards.