PlayStation Universe

Stick it to The Man Review: a surreal, crazy, twisted, brilliant platform puzzler

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on 11 November 2013

So, last night my life took a very weird turn. It started when a blow to my cranium gave me psychic powers. Then things got worse as I was framed for murder, and it all came to a head when I had to escape from the cops disguised as an opera singer. Now, if you're confused by my bizarre shenanigans, let me stop and answer any immediate questions that might be crossing your befuddled brain. My actions were not part of a dream bought on by consuming a hearty cheese-laden meal before falling asleep. Nor do I reside in a rubber room and wear a jacket that does up at the back. The much more pleasant explanation of these surreal encounters is that I was playing Stick it to The Man, a brilliantly bonkers new title from Ripstone and Zoink Games. Let me tell you all about it.

Stick it to The Man is Ripstone and Zoink's incredibly odd platform-puzzler, which is available as part of the cross-buy initiative on PlayStation 3 and Vita. It's a superb surreal game that features some of the funniest and weirdest gaming ideas I've ever come across. Bear with me, as I try to explain what it’s all about.

Stick it to The Man sees you take on the role of a hapless chap named Ray, who one day is struck on the head by a mysterious object that grants him psychic powers. These powers manifest in the form of a giant pink spaghetti arm that sticks out of Ray's head, and which only he can see. Ray's weirdly augmented brain now means he can read people’s minds, then - if chooses to - he can literally steal the thoughts he finds and use them to help him solve the mystery behind his bizarre accident.

The secret to Ray's new-found powers is locked behind a series of levels that the player needs to progress through by solving a variety of puzzles; these are usually in the form of an NPC who has a dilemma that needs resolving. To get an idea of what the solution is, Ray must read their mind then attempt to fix the issue by romping round the level’s platforms looking for answers, or literally peeling the NPCs thoughts away and then finding a use for them. The levels themselves come in all shapes and sizes and players will find themselves trapped in a lunatic asylum, travelling through Ray's childhood, and escaping from a secret government base. All of these are uniquely designed in the style of a 2D paper world, which is a clever touch that allows Ray to tear at the background to find help, and treat any thoughts that are collected as stickers, which can be stuck on NPCs or the backdrop of the level to try to solve puzzles. As this is a 2D paper world, if you die then Ray will use one of the photocopying machines littered around the levels to reprint himself back into reality.

Immediately noticeable as you play Stick it to The Man is the game's marvelous twisted sense of humor, which when coupled with puzzles that, while intuitive, border on the surreal, are some of the most marvelously twisted ideas ever to grace the PS3. Let me give you a quick example. To escape a lunatic asylum you need to convince an insane whaler to let you turn the corpse of his recent catch into a hot air balloon. Once he agrees you then need to rescue a taxidermist and hyperventilating ex-circus performer to help you. Crazy ideas like this litter the game and nothing is straightforward in Ray's quest, but the oddity of the puzzles nicely raise the game play of Stick it to The Man above other more standard platform puzzlers.