I have played some really whacky games in my lifetime. Games that make me wonder what the developers were smoking when they made the game. Stick it to the Man falls into that category, but it also falls into the category of me wanting to ask the developers where I can get whatever they were on at the time.
Stick it to the Man is one trippy ride through the psyche of a character named Ray who, when walking home one day, is hit on the head by an alien. The alien (Ted) just escaped from the confinements of The Man and decides to hide out in Ray’s head for the meantime. This, of course, results in Ray developing a giant pink hand on top of his head which allows him to do all sorts of things. Why does this happen? Logic that’s why, or rather the lack thereof. But when you are playing a game like this, you shouldn’t care.
The gameplay elements are relatively simple. With his new found pink hand on his head, Ray is now able to grab onto things (nifty right?). This is useful in a couple of ways, you see each chapter of the game spans a few areas in one long level set out in a typical platforming design. Ray can now access higher areas thanks to his pink giant hand as he tries to figure out just what has happened to him. His first mission, obviously, is to seek out a shrink to get some help with his problem because he is convinced it is all a dream.
But getting there, and to other objectives, isn’t easy. That’s where the giant pink hand comes into play. Ray finds out that he can now read the thoughts of people by latching onto their brains with his pink hand. A hand nobody else can see. By latching onto their brains he is given clues as to what needs to be done to progress. So for example, one guy loses his girlfriend because he doesn’t have magnificent teeth – if you can help him he will reward you and allow you to progress. But to attain each object, something else needs to be done. It really has a point and click feel to it, only you use a pink hand to grab things and there is no pointing and clicking. Anyway, to obtain items you can either locate them through the stage, or at times read character thoughts that you can steal and actually use to progress.
The gameplay actually works brilliantly well as you move across the level, look for hidden items and try to piece the puzzle together so you can find out just what is going on. It doesn’t ever get too complex that you will be stuck for hours, but sometimes finding the right combination of items can be tricky so the difficulty is at a good level for anyone who wants to play.
While searching through levels for what to do next, there are also some sections where you are chased down by The Man’s henchmen. These sections require you to sneak around them so as not to get caught and vaporized. To do this you have to time your movements, but you can also take sleep thoughts (represented by ZzZz symbols) to put the henchmen to sleep, or a couple other little tricks to confuse them. These sections are few and far between, but can be a pain in the ass at times.
While the gameplay elements are quite basic, Stick it to the Man really shines through its humour and themes. I think that it takes almost every psychological idea and pokes fun at it, or uses it to poke fun at other things. There is even the classic meeting with a shrink who continuously asks “How does that make you feel?” Even some of the gags you might have heard before are done well and in a new context making the game a real laugh from start to finish. The Man even has mommy issues, poor guy.
The humour goes through the level designs with some chapters played through Ray’s sub-conscious which, while weird, is worth every second as you can only smile at the references in his head. It’s brilliantly designed. The other stages are similarly well designed and a trip to the mental institution with some, should we say ‘interesting’, inmates makes for a fun time for all. Except maybe for Ray.
Being a psychologist, I really appreciate the effort the developers went through to provide some sort of deeper meaning to the whole experience. And by that I mean they made it crazy in terms of almost everything. It’s a game that won’t take you too long and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you have a need to try something different, something unique with great voice acting, humour throughout and some clever puzzle elements, Stick it to the Man is the game to try.
If you have no interest in the above, and don’t care for fun, then you have to just ask yourself, how does that make you feel?