I can tell you right off the bat, although Stick It To The Man flew off my radar after its 2013 release, seeing that it was coming to Nintendo Switch had reminded me that I was probably missing out on something special. One look at the game and I knew that I had to play it. Without knowing details about the game, its visual presentation drew me in automatically. To my surprise, Stick It To The Man accomplished more than just looking the part; it played and sounded the part. I felt like I was in control of a bizarre cartoon ripped straight from Cartoon Network that has a unique art style. All this is thanks to a successful collaboration between Zoink Games — the developer responsible — and writer of Adventure Time, Ryan North. Stick It To The Man! delivers on entertaining from start to end.
The game’s opening is a clear sign of what the expect from the entire experience. The protagonist of this unfolding story is Ray, a hard hat tester for a construction company, who at the time introduces to the player his story while floating in space moments before his presumed death. The fluid animation of Ray and solid voice acting deemed fit for Ray’s appearance felt like a perfect match which immediately invited me into continuing giving this game my attention. A game’s introduction shouldn’t fight for the player’s interest and Stick It To The Man is quick to get into and stay into. You begin by moving Ray around in a 2.5 environment, constructed of cardboard art very much in the style of pop-up storybook, despite there not being an unfolding mechanic. Hand-drawn cutouts are placed both near and far giving the depth of semi-realism. The opening sequence goes back & forth between cinematic and gameplay as you walk through the environment with names of the development team placed in the scene. It works very well as Ray can navigate closer to and from the foreground, very similar to how the Paper Mario series is handled. However, early on you will notice that this cartoon aesthetic takes on a much different approach. Parents should be forewarned that there are suggestive themes not suitable for children.
On one regular day, as Ray is not wearing a hard hat, he gets knocked out by being boinked on the noggin by an object which fell from the sky. The game takes place across 10 different chapters with events occurring as you go along, so the narrative is something you should experience for yourself. For reasons, Ray wakes up with a “giant spaghetti arm” poised directly out from his brain. It’s kinda funny in looks. It reminds me of those stretchy novelty toys that can be flung and latch onto things such as paper behaving like a frog’s tongue. The mechanics in Stick It To The Man work differently from that, however, and serves as the key element of gameplay. The noggin noodle is capable of two essential functions: reading the minds of NPC’s and grabbing objects. Both often work in junction with each other and are an integral part of solving puzzles and reaching platforms. You are introduced to how these mechanics work in the earliest chapters. Swinging “noggin noodle” around is performed by aiming with the right analog stick. Points of interest are highlighted by a white hollow circle. These are found on NPC’s you can interact with, red safety pins within levels to grab onto them while swinging to another platform, as well as peeling away paper walls to reveal what scene is taking place behind them. Confirming which context sensitive area you wish to interact with is done by pressing ZR. The other points of interest are instead dotted white circles. These imply that a certain sticker needs to be applied in its void in order to trigger an event. Most stickers obtained require you to read what others are thinking.
Entering mind-reading mode is close to the same process as selecting before, but requires ZL to be held before making a decision. During this moment, Ray will stop moving and plug his ears as he focuses in to who’s brain he’ll tap. A swirly hypnotizing effect will display on screen as you’re listening to someone’s thoughts. If you listen carefully to your controller, HD rumble is in effect during this which even creates the sound of a wavy hypnotic rhythm. Of course, it also feels natural in your hands, too. It’s kinda awesome. In a clouded bubble, a sticker will appear for you to grab and hold in your inventory. Scrolling between stickers is done by pressing Y & A. Alternatively, this can also be done by pressing both left & right or on the Pro Controller’s d-pad respectively. Knowing how to find a sticker and where to use them makes up most of the puzzle elements for Stick It To The Man. It never becomes confusing and you’re generally in possession of less than a handful of stickers at a time, but nonetheless, how they’re implemented is still clever. Most levels are basically non-linear, so you’ll be going forward as much as you will backwards sometimes.
Ray has no attacking method. Most of the enemies consist of certain henchmen of the antagonist. Ray must be out of their line of sight, which is represented by growing dotted lines, in order to not be chased. Once caught, Ray will be zapped and brought back to the checkpoint which also behaves as a save point; a Mr. Copy printing device that sketches Ray on paper with a pencil before he pops out of the picture. This is where yours brains come in. Or their brains. An interconnected display of both brains. Being able to read the minds of enemies will create one of two stickers depending on their dialogue. A henchman may make mention that he’s tired of his job and a sticker of 3 sleepy “Zzz”s can be grabbed from his thoughts. This can be slapped onto the current henchman or another causing them to catch their “Zzz”s allowing you to pass by. No matter who’s mind you’re reading, be it enemy, civilian, or even animals, the dialogue is always witty and well acted. Everybody’s animation matches naturally with their voice over and the art direction is spot on. Reading minds holds as much humor as every cut-scene to be viewed. Ray himself looks like a nervous, yet innocent person and his voice is certainly well-suited. Every chapter has a certain different vibe and there are bound to be some favorites. They’re cleverly thought out and introduce new characters that don’t feel like cheap write-ins.
Now, every cartoon must have its own theme song. Booting up the game will bring you to its title screen which holds the 1978 classic “Just Dropped In” by Kenny Rogers which seems rather appropriate. Aside from the famous classic rock singer, the rest of the soundtrack, composed by Joel Bille, is mostly of a classic jazzy cartoon vibe with muted trumpets, bass lines and xylophones. They’re all catchy enough for each moment.
Stick It To The Man is pretty well-rounded in polish, but there are a couple of things that slightly impact it in a negative way worth mentioning. One of the chapters you’ll get to is relatively short compared to the others and you’ll know which one exactly. This may or may not be a negative thing as perhaps this one chapter needed to stand on its own due to how each chapter is designed. The other thing which is a slight annoyance is how certain pieces of the platforms are designed. There are times where walking across the path which looks naturally flat stops you at a certain point. At times I thought to my self, “oh, invisible barrier”. This is caused by part of the ground being slightly raised than the other having a straight, vertical cut. I’m unsure if this is due to faulty placement during development or if it was intentional, but it definitely feels out of place. More-so to the fact that sometimes jumping to another platform and being near the edge will leave you stuck like a skeleton in shackles, making the only way to break free is to jump out of it. Again, this seldom happens, but it’s worth mentioning.