When I brainstorm new ideas for gameplay mechanics that I’d find compelling and would view as fresh hooks in a video game, probably the last thing that comes to my mind would be “a giant pink spaghetti arm that comes out of the player’s head and reads minds.” It sounds ridiculous, like an ill thought out idea after one too many whiskey sours on a Friday night, but it bizarrely works. Stick It to The Man! manages to work this odd mechanic into an entertaining romp of an adventure game worth indulging in.
As the game begins, you find yourself in the shoes of Ray Doewood, a hardhat tester that unfortunately has a mysterious package from a military aircraft fall out of the sky and hit him on the head. Knocked unconscious, Ray awakens to find a giant pink spaghetti arm protruding out of his skull that gives him the ability to read the minds of people he encounters. No one can see the arm but Ray, and it leads him on a quest that makes him question his sanity while the shrouded figure known as “The Man” sends out government agents to retrieve Ray and the contents of the package that have given him his new abilities.
This crazy story is all wrapped up and neatly packaged in Stick It To The Man!’s unique choice of art style. At first glance you’d think this was a Double Fine adventure game, with characters and the environment having a passing resemblance to Psychonauts in the best of ways. Characters and the environment are all forms of cardboard, paper, and stickers. Little things, like checkpoints acting as copy machines that print out new cutouts of Ray if he gets caught by guards or falls of an edge, add just the right amount of touch to the game to give it a very lively feel.
Since the game world is one made of paper, you can use your spaghetti arm in several different ways to influence your surroundings to solve the game’s puzzles. You can grab thumbtacks located above platforms to advance to new locations, peel walls off of buildings to reveal hidden solutions, and, of course, read characters’ minds. Reading a person’s thoughts will give you an insight to their character and sometimes materialize what they are thinking of as a sticker in a comic book-like thought bubble. The majority of Stick It To The Man!’s puzzles require you to pull these stickers out of one person’s thoughts and place or combine them with other character’s thoughts. It’s an interesting technique that works out quite nicely.
While sticking these thoughts into other character’s minds is the bread and butter of solving puzzles in Stick It To The Man!, they aren’t exactly challenging. As the game is separated into 10 levels in the form of chapters, you don’t really get much of a sense of exploration with everything condensed into segmented pieces, and it is relatively easy to figure out each level’s puzzles with such limited space. Levels have occasional jump platforming sections where government agents will chase you if you are spotted to break up the game’s puzzle-solving formula, but for the most part they aren’t much of a threat as the consequence of getting caught or falling of the stage is merely being respawned at the nearest checkpoint.
What really makes Stick It To The Man! work is its fun story and comedic nature. Listening to the thoughts of the cast of characters is very amusing, and the voice acting is absolutely superb. Everyone has their own charm to them, and you really feel like the world is alive while you are in it, whether you’re talking to a psychiatrist that likes to answer all of his patients with the question of “How does that make you feel?” or reading the thoughts of an asylum inmate obsessed with taxidermy. This is where Stick It To The Man! is at its strongest and what pulls its other elements together into an entertaining experience.
Stick It To The Man! is an enjoyable, though unchallenging game that has an excellent cast of characters and a charming story filled with bits of humor. Clocking in at about four hours, the game wisely avoids dragging its feet, but does lack replayability. I only missed a few of the game’s 16 achievements during my first playthrough and can easily get the last few in a second run, but the game’s linear design and lack of any sort of collectibles or exploration really discourages me from doing so. If you enjoy adventure and point-and-click games, you will surely find Stick It To The Man! to be an excellent entry to your game library.
Stick It To The Man! was reviewed on the PC platform, with a review code provided by the developer. For more information on how Indie Game Insider conducts reviews, check out our review policies.