Developer(s) – Zoink Games
PEGI – 12
Released in December on PC, and later for a multitude of different home consoles amidst an ever-growing influx of indie titles throughout the eighth generation of gaming, Stick It To the Man is a classic 2D side-scrolling game with puzzle elements, which has been met with an overwhelmingly positive critical response, leading many gamers and reviewers to label it the spiritual successor to Tim Schafer’s unsung hidden gem Psychonauts. After playing it, I was at the end unsurprised to find how it had garnished so much praise since it is one of the more creative games of its kind I’ve played in recent years.
Graphics – 8/10
Incorporating a wonderfully surreal and cartoony feel to it in terms of conceptual design, the in-game world looks unlike anything else I’ve ever seen in a video game before. The most remarkable thing about the game is the settings, which are insanely varied, ranging from trips into the main character’s subconscious to alien spaceships to city streets to inevitably, an insane asylum at one point. Even though the levels taking place in the city can seem a little repetitive, they are all kept distinctively fresh in their own individual basic structures, which in turn, add depth to the gameplay.
Gameplay – 7/10
On the topic of how the game plays out, it’s creative on a level that very few 2D side scrollers have been throughout the history of gaming; something which is extremely difficult to do in a market that was once saturated with games of the same ilk. Whilst it doesn’t have quite the same amount of variety as Psychonauts, it certainly hearkens back to what is arguably one of the most underrated video games of all time, relying on a strong puzzle-solving element as well as a certain degree of exploration.
Controls – 10/10
As the 2D side-scrolling genre had been long since perfected by this point, it would have more or less the same to assume that there wouldn’t be any problems with the game’s control scheme, and so there isn’t. It plays out as fluently and as wonderfully as any great game in the genre, but new control elements brought into it with the advent of this game also do little to unnecessarily complicate things either, which is always excellent to see.
Lifespan – 4/10
In my opinion, the worst thing about this game is the criminally short amount of time it lasts. Clocking in at about 3 to 4 hours, it only hearkens to the kind of standards of lifespan in games that were set throughout the third generation of gaming, and consequently, doesn’t count for a great deal in this day and age, when 2D side scrollers can be made to last many times longer on average. The fact that this game doesn’t indeed have quite a lot of depth to it made me feel as if it was far too much of a fleeting experience, and what little I was treated to ultimately left me wanting more of it than what was offered.
Storyline – 8/10
The game’s plot follows an averagely witted, yet humble man called Ray, who is walking home from work when a UFO suddenly lands on his head. He wakes up in hospital following a strange dream only to find that he now has an imaginary spaghetti arm protruding from the top of his head that only he can see, which affords him the ability to read people’s minds and control certain elements of the world around him. Events unfold into a massive government conspiracy, which Ray finds himself in the midst of, and must use his newfound abilities to see it all through. The game’s story is clever, well written, and extremely funny, providing a number of fourth-wall-breaking jokes along with references to other popular games and some very humorous social commentaries.
Originality – 9/10
I feel the need to largely commend the developers of this game for their ability to make a game of this kind stand out among a deluge of similar titles that have been released across a period of over thirty years. It handles puzzle-solving in a manner unique to not only the 2D side-scrolling genre, but gaming itself, and whilst it does clearly have its influences since gamers have been able to draw parallels with other title released over the years, it is still yet another example of how indie developers have done their best to provide a strong level of creativity across the gaming industry.
Overall, Stick It To the Man is easily one of the most standout 2D side scrollers I have ever played. Though I was left underwhelmed with how short a time it lasts, I enjoyed what I experienced of it, and would still recommend it to any fan of the genre.