Since the next generation of consoles kicked off in a big way, there’s been a lot of focus on indie titles. Both the Xbox One and PS4 tussling to offer indie developers a platform to release unique and quirky titles.
Zoink Games are continuing this fresh tradition, with their offering Stick It to the Man, originally released for the PS4 and now seeing the light of day on Microsoft's Xbox One, it's a little that is nothing if not distinct, with a part style that is truly unforgettable despite what lies beneath being less so.
While Stick It to the Man seems, at first glance, like your standard 2D platformer, it is in fact a 2.5D re-imagining of the classic point and click adventure, full of humour and with a tiny splash of platforming action to complete this heady mix of crazy gameplay with fresh old school ideas.
You start out as Ray, a down on his luck hard hat tester who ends yet another average day by being smashed in the noggin’ by a random item that falls from the heavens. After a splitting headache and 40 winks, Ray wakes up with a rather unusual yet nifty stretchy hand oozing from the bump in his head. This fresh appendage can not only grab onto pins dotted around the map, allowing him to swing around freely, but it can poke into the minds of characters around him to steal their very thoughts, which rather conveniently become stickers.
After some initial training, showing you the key to listening for what people need and finding the correct sticker to slap on a characters face, stick to the world around them or insert into their mind, Inception style, this mechanics while simple in execution is truly original and becomes utterly addictive. Forcing you to truly scour every inch of the game's world and listen to every word of conversation to find what you need in order to progress.
You’re first chance to flex those newly grown digits, comes when the Taxi you need to get home has a little issue. It’s driver is ready to hang him self because the love of his life left him all alone (aww!) after a little probing, you’ll discover she left him for a man with bigger, shinier teeth. We all have our turn ons, I guess.
After some more poking around the map, you’ll have the chance to snatch said teeth from an old age pensioner, grinding like hell in a local Disco, and slap them on the cab drivers now grinning face.
Each obstacle gets more and more complicated to solve, as while each solution seems random and almost senseless, as the game unfolds you’ll become part of bigger plans, often having to solve one puzzle in order to unlock a sticker, that will solve the next puzzle and so on until you actually complete the objective you were trying to solve all along! Phew!
This is where Stick It to the Man really shines, showing off just how deep the rabbit hole can go when their at the helm, perfectly slotting in great humour and interesting yet freaky characters as you move along.
It's not all such a perfect streamlined experience though. As with a lot of games an almost unnecessary amount of enemies and action are thrown in, presumably to shake up the constant conversations and puzzle solving but in a way that really doesn't add so much as detracts.
As the title suggest, Ray is under threat from The Man, the head of an evil syndicate, who has made the obvious choice to send his worst agents into the field in order to track him down. If you come face to face with these Jason Statham look alikes, expect them to come hurtling towards you and kill you instantly. Unless of course, you can trick them to go around you, as you fly across platforms using those handy pins that are dotted around the map.
Dying doesn't mean what it should in Rays world, as his one advantage of being a 2.5D character means that you’ll be shot out of local printers at nearby checkpoints, so these threats aren't anything too serious but if you get stuck and end up dying a lot, you’ll quickly find yourself getting rather annoyed.
This is simply because, while Rays newly sprouted hand is great for its intended purpose of slapping stickers around the screen and reading people's thoughts, its pretty hit or miss when it comes to using pins for platforming. Even the slightest nudge of the trigger or control stick will send you flying in the wrong direction, usually smack bang into the heart of danger.
It doesn't stop with the agents either, among other pesky enemies, you’ll face off against some rather persistent nurses in an insane asylum (don't ask) but while it's not a great or original battle mechanic, if you can bear to push on you’ll be richly rewarded as the more difficult puzzles are hugely rewarding! During one level, I helped 3 intriguing mental patients, a ghost, a sailor and made a boat out of a dead whale! That's a good day out in my books! (I’ll try not to talk about the scary child with the invisible friend who happens to be a serial killer and a Rabbit)
In short, Stick It to the Man, while not utterly perfect, is definitely a must have indie title as you’re simply just not likely to experience anything else like it!