|System: PS3, PS Vita|
|Release: November 19, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Violence|
by Jenni Lada
Video games have been telling the tales of underdogs for years. The people who society has looked down upon, or considered useless, suddenly get some fantastic gift, which makes them capital "S" Special. Naturally, with great power comes great responsibility. Though in Stick It to the Man, Ray's newfound gift mainly involves tasks like making an invisible friend tea, or stealing a mafia don's fake teeth for a cabbie whose girlfriend has molar mania.
Stick It to the Man's Ray is a shlub--he's a hard hat tester with terrible hair. Sure, he has a decent enough personality and a great girlfriend, but you can tell he's no prize. That changes when a paper airplane can't withstand a storm and dumps its precious, mysterious, and possibly even dangerous cargo onto his head. He wakes up in the hospital after, with no explanation of what happened because, of course, his insurance doesn't cover blows to the head.
In his coma dream, he imagined a pink spaghetti hand popping out of his skull that would let him grapple around his environment, grab stickers, and place them to change the world in order to rearrange items. He also imagined some odd creature saying something about a new host, but it was probably a dream. Except the hand is still there--in the real world--after he removes the bandages. No one else can see it, but he still has all of its unusual abilities and manages to draw some attention.
Ray's world is made of cardboard construction paper and stickers. Which means a pink spaghetti hand coming out of his head is the perfect tool to navigate and shape the world. Walls to buildings can be ripped down to peek inside. People's minds can be read to discover what to do in any situation or to spawn powerful stickers. The stickers can completely change a character or item’s abilities or mindset. It works well, and the unique grittiness and handcrafted appearance of the world makes everything seem plausible.
The mind reading, in particular, is a game mechanic that players should employ freely. Though most people don't have something to directly say to Ray, they're always thinking in Stick It to the Man. Those thoughts make up some of the best video game dialogue I've enjoyed all year. This game is equal parts insightful and clever, not to mention always hilarious. I can't remember the last time I played a game that, within a span of a few hours, brought up Descartes, Silver Surfer on the NES, the frustration of menial jobs to pay off student loans, bullying, and the meta banality of having to continually jump to get home. It's brilliant.
What makes an already fantastic script even better is Stick It to the Man's casting. I didn't recognize any of the voice actors, but every one was absolutely amazing. I honestly didn’t see that coming. This is an indie game, after all, and you tend to have a certain idea in mind of what to expect from these kinds of casts. Yet, Stick It to the Man's actors are wonderful, perfectly suited to every situation, and are a joy to hear.
It made me wonder if, perhaps, that's why the puzzles are so easy. Despite the platformer facade, Stick It to the Man is clearly an adventure game. Only instead of acquiring items and using them in the correct places, Ray is grabbing stickers and slapping them onto people, animals, and items. Acquiring stickers is as easy as listening to all or most of the people in an area. And since only the correct sticker can be applied in its spot, it isn't as though someone can waste a sticker and lose it. With a little trial and error, anything can be figured out.
Stick It to the Man only stumped me one time, in the third chapter, when a man said his precious pet, Bitey, had crawled in the sewer. I didn't think to read Bitey's thoughts, so it took me about ten minutes before I finally went back--saw his brain when I entered the mind reading mode--and realized he didn't want the chicken his owner was offering. He wanted the sweet taste of human flesh. A quick run to the restaurant, where I flavored a cook's dish with a brokenhearted man's salty tears. It turned out the cook was boiling a human arm. Ray snagged it, and Bitey's meal was ready.