In the same way LittleBigPlanet takes the handicraft aesthetic and builds a game out it, and in the same way Tearaway uses papercraft to inform its level design, Stick It To The Man! takes the flat planes of a cut-up cardboard world and infuses it with a dark and distinct personality. Ray suffers from an unfortunate accident early on in the game, granting him the ability to summon a giant, tethered pink hand-thing out of his head. This grants him pseudo-telekinetic powers – no-one else can see the hand, and it drives Ray to distraction.
The floating hand offers some interesting mechanics alongside the scrolling 2D world – navigation is sped up by grabbing onto pins and using them as tether points, and Ray has the ability to peel stickers off people or items and slap them, quite unceremoniously, onto other people’s heads, interactive objects or animals. The game is a curious mix of platformer and puzzler, fusing traditional platform-hopping with a point-and-click inspired series of brainteasers which get progressively trickier as the game goes on.
The platforming sections feel more trial-and-error than skill-based, though; the usual pattern revolves around Agents of the eponymous Man guarding certain areas of the level, with Ray having to lead them elsewhere before taking advantage of pins to get ahead of them. These sequences break up the flow of puzzle-solving, but they still end up feeling a little trite at times. Add the floaty and imprecise mechanics of the hand into that mix and some of the chase sections can end up taking far longer than we think they should.
The gameplay itself feels like it comes second to the title’s inane story, though. There’s a lot of back and forth through the levels, and to progress you have to read people’s minds (done by fondling people’s brains with Ray’s extendable psychic arm). The puzzles often require obscure and unpredictable solutions, and it’s in setting up these little quests the game really excels. Written by Ryan North – one of the minds behind Adventure Time – every character is brought to life and given a concise backstory and motivation.
There’s a surprising amount of versatility to the characters, too; some have stories that make you actively hate who they are, and some are quite relatable, but most of them are just a bit tragic and unfortunate. Stick It To The Man! features some really dark humour – it feels like the writers of Darth Marenghi’s Darkplace sat down with Matt Groening to make a spiritual successor to Paper Mario. The game is a refreshing twist on the puzzle genre, and something we haven’t seen enough of on PSN. If you’re starved for a good 2D puzzler after last year’s offerings of Machinarium and Limbo, we reckon Stick It To The Man! will be a perfect fit alongside those two on your digital PSN shelf.