Now here’s a game with a name that works on many levels. It’s a summary of the plot, pretty much – after leaving his job as a hard hat tester, likeable lead character Ray receives a blow to the head from a classified weapon that haphazardly falls from a passing helicopter. The incident leaves Ray with new-found powers, allowing him to not only read the minds of others, but also remove and slap stickers on the papercraft world in which he lives. It soon transpires that this classified and mysterious weapon belongs to shadowy villain â€˜The Man’, who would rather like it back. Zing!
To use the pleasingly daft description from the game itself, Ray wakes from the accident to find â€œa huge pink spaghetti armâ€ spiralling out of the top of his head. This is controlled with the right analogue stick, and although grabbing onto drawing pins to propel Ray to higher areas is simple enough, mind reading requires some gentle movements when alternating between targets. We had a few issues with this at first, especially when two or three characters are stood in close proximity, but after learning to rotate the stick very slowly it soon became second nature.
These special powers don’t turn Ray into an almighty superhero. On the contrary, in fact – he’d rather not have them all at. The first few mission objectives are simply to find the way back home to try and sleep them off, followed by an outing to visit the local shrink the following morning. What should be a simple task soon sprawls into one eventful day, forcing him to use his abilities to reunite a lost couple, coax a crocodile out of a sewer, impersonate a celebrity to hitch a ride in a limo and more. The characters Ray meets certainly are a peculiar bunch, with many faces reappearing later on and usually in unexpected situations.
Reading minds sometimes generates a sticker that can be placed in highlighted areas, an idea which brings back fond memories of point and click adventures of yore. Rarely does Ray find himself with more than three stickers in his inventory, which helps to keep progression moving swiftly, and you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear that there are no red herrings. If you do get stuck a subtle vocal hint is provided when rummaging through the inventory, and failing that there’s a map screen that shows the whereabouts of items of importance. If these hints fall flat you can simply resort to trying every sticker in every known location as there’s no penalty whatsoever.
For something officially described as a â€˜platform puzzler’ it’s unusual to find that the focus is on puzzle solving rather than traditional platform jumping. Stealth sections help to introduce further variety – hired goons armed with electric tasers are out to nab our unlikely hero, and must be avoided by keeping out their line of sight. If the goons give chase they can be given the slip by grabbing the conveniently placed drawing pins to leap to nearby platforms. In a few cases Ray can read their minds too, slapping either a â€˜Zzz’ sticker to make them fall asleep or – somewhat more hilariously – placing a sticker with his face on to fool the goons into chasing a decoy. Failure shouldn’t be feared – checkpoints are frequent, and again, there’s no penalty for getting caught.
Indeed, this is a game designed with your utmost enjoyment in mind. That’s to say, it rarely frustrates and is constantly amusing. The random musings of the delightfully kooky citizens may not prompt you to laugh out loud all that often, but chances are you will regularly crack a grin at what they have to say. The voice acting plays a major part in this – each character is as outlandish and as memorable as the last. The highlight for us was around halfway through the adventure, when the yellow fellow finds himself incarcerated in a mental asylum. Here, there are dozens of characters needing Ray’s help, including a bizarre chap who thinks he’s a piece of cheese and an elderly lady who wishes to go into space to be reunited with her people.
Daring to be different, Stick it To The Man proves to be an experience that’s both humorous and unique. Or at least, it is while it lasts – the game’s biggest problem, and by quite some margin, is that it’s over all too soon. The ten chapters are woefully short, especially those set inside Ray’s twisted noggin that only seem to exist to progress the plot slightly. We played through the whole thing in one brisk afternoon session, returning later for an hour or so to mop up a few achievements we had missed.
However, the asking price does reflect the length – it’s a mere Â£6.39 on the Xbox Store. And of course it’s the overall experience that counts. This is where Stick it To The Man prevails past its shortness. It has a quirky tale to tell, and it does it in a highly amusing fashion.