It’s not every day you see a game centered almost wholly around comedy. Although the Monkey Island games practically solidified a new sub-genre of adventure games, there aren’t a whole lot of laugh-centric titles that hit the market these days.
While Stick it to the Man may have one of the strangest titles I’ve ever seen and some questionable design choices, it still offers up a barrel of laughs, and then some.
The premise for the game is pretty simple, if you can wrap your head around it (literally). Ray is just a regular guy, working a 9-5 as a hard hat tester (read: things drop on his head all day), when suddenly, something drops on his head, he wakes up from a coma, and he has special powers. What powers, you ask? Well, he has a psychic ghost hand sticking out of his head that only he can see, that lets him traverse large gaps and read people’s minds.
At first glance, Stick it appears to be a platformer. You’ll make your way back to Ray’s house and through a coma dream-state, jumping onto various ledges just like a Mario game. But very quickly you’ll realize that this is just a front, as it’s very much an adventure title, complete with “get item A, use on character B, to get item C” gameplay. Sure, Ray can use his spaghetti head-arm to fling himself to different parts of the map, but the mind-reading aspect is key here, as is the ability to rip up parts of the world to find “stickers” (items).
In addition to solving problems to access the next chapter to progress the game, you’ll also dive into unsuspecting brains, learning new things about their hopes and fears, as well as uncover hidden stickers to solve more puzzles. Penned by Adventure Time comic writer Ryan North, the script is irreverent as you’d expect, with themes of infidelity, hopelessness, and dysfunctional family values — all for the sake of comedy.
Simply put, this portion of the game works for the most part, as the writing is top notch, and actually made me laugh out loud at parts. Like a good visual novel it’s worth a discount price alone just to hear some of these characters, who are both well written and well voiced. It’s the gameplay that can throw off the pacing of the game a bit — almost like the developers wanted it to be a traditional adventure game, and threw in the platforming last minute.
My other problem with Stick it is that it tends to be a bit long-winded throughout most of the adventure parts. While the writing is generally top notch for the main cast of characters and the over-arching story itself, a lot of the regular day-to-day dialog is boring. I found myself reaching for the fast-forward button on a few occasions (which changes voiceovers to chipmunk speech), as a decent amount of characters really have nothing interesting or funny to say, and contribute very little to the overall theme of the game.
For instance, there’s one particular area that involves a father and son clown act. The father is coaxing the son in a rather macabre manner to drop off a giant cliff essentially to his death. It’s dark, but it’s very funny, and their entire shtick is amusing to watch and be a a part of. But then you shift your focus to a few other characters in that same area, and pretty much all of them pale in comparison outside of a three headed professional wrestler who is rather underutilized. When the game shines it shines, but you’ll have to wade through some shallow waters from time to time.
Stick it to the Man is a really weird game, and that’s part of the reason why I enjoyed it for what it was. It’s like watching a particularly dark episode of Duckman or Rocko’s Modern Life, and while it may not be as classic as the subject material, it’s still definitely worthy of the same conversation. I kind of just wished it knew what it really wanted to be.
This review is based on a digital copy of Stick it to the Man for the PlayStation Vita.