Ray's had a hard knock life. Literally. By profession he gets hit on the head by falling objects in order to test helmets. One fine day on his way home from work he gets hit in the head with an object falling from the skies that, somehow, causes some fundamental changes to Ray... such as finding himself able to read minds thanks to a giant pink arm stinking out of his head. It's the basic premise that runs through the entire Stick it to the Man adventure.
Turns out the thing that fell onto - and into - his head is sought after by a shadowy figure called "The Man", and this triggers a series of event that sees Ray pass through asylums, dreamscapes, mindscapes and outer space. It's a neat humourous adventure that doesn't take it self seriously.
The pink arm sticking out of Ray's head allows him to read minds and collect thoughts from the characters that inhabit the game's ten chapters. You can grab ideas or objects with the arm as they're visualised as stickers, which you can plaster elsewhere to solve puzzles.
There are also guards (nurses in the asylum level) that will chase you down if they see you in brief stealth/platforming sections that break up the puzzle solving. Some of these have thoughts you can use against them. Perhaps they're sleepy (grab the "ZZZ" and slap it on their head to make them sleep) or perhaps they're thinking of your face (grab a sticker with your face and make the guards chase each other). All the characters are paper thin and this is also something that is used in the platforming, as you can swing around on the outside of walls by swinging your pink arm on to thumb tacks.
Spoiling the puzzles would be doing you a disfavour as this is where some of the best comedy is to be found, but to give you but one example to show how it works: one daring escape involves getting a clearly demented Captain Ahab-like character to explain how to make a raft out of a dead whale (a solution involving a taxidermist and a hyperventilating scaredy pants).
As you've probably figured out this game has a lot in common with old school point-and-click adventures as far as the puzzles go, but they're not quite as complex and these mechanics fit neatly into a 2D platformer.
It reminds us a lot of Double Fine's The Cave in this regard. The tone is a little different and the voices are higher pitched than in The Cave, but if you enjoyed Ron Gilbert's co-op adventure this game should be right up your alley.
One thing that will hit you immediately as you play Stick it to the Man is the quality of the art and the design. It reminds us in parts of Ahh Real Monsters, but mostly it just strikes us as unique and inspired. There is a patient on the roof who fancies himself a cheese (swiss by the look of this shirt), there is a doctor's dancing alter-ego, a mafioso with shiny teeth, and many more beautifully designed characters. It's technically a fairly basic game, but it manages to look great in spite of simple animations.
There are little neat touches in Stick it to the Man that we appreciate. The ability to fast forward the inner monologue of the characters you mindread is one such detail. While the inner monologues contain some of the best highlights of the game (make sure you tune into key characters after you've solve their puzzles, as there is typically some kind of punchline to be found), you don't want to spend valuable time listening to sleepy guards over and over as you trial and error your way through some of the more advanced stealth sections.
If your head is up to the task you can speed through the ten chapters rather swiftly, and while you may not get all the Trophies on your first try (you need to mind read all the characters in the entire game for a gold Trophy - no Platinum in this one) there's not a great deal of replayability outside of reliving the narrative. We reviewed it on PS Vita (also available on PS3 and soon on Steam), and the game comes across as a little expensive when compared to the very affordable range of prices in the PSN Store.
Positives aside there are a few niggles, or areas with room for improvement. One such area is that the action sequences tend to be a bit messy when there are enemies and thumb tacks near each other; you're trying to hit one or the other with your pink arm in hectic moments. The Trophies are a bit unevenly distributed with 4-5 Trophies in one chapter, while other chapters are completely void of them. More secrets and bonus puzzles would also have been greatly appreciated.
All in all Stick it to the Man is a game that should appeal to gamers with a craving for comedy who enjoy fairly simplistic but fun puzzles. The aesthetics really elevate the game and it's full of neat little details and the characters are (for the most part) both memorable and disturbing.
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