There is an exact moment when Stick It to the Man (PS4) becomes a great game instead of merely staying a good one. Without spoiling too much, the moment involved meeting a character halfway and you realising already having met the person before. That not only makes the encounter fun, it also provides you with a solution.
That’s a very dry way of saying that the game becomes self-referential. Self-reference is very important for games. It emphasises the game’s setting – its game world – and creates context. This in turn makes the world more believable. If a character develops and its world behaves accordingly, your actions matter and the sense of control and influence becomes greater.
Stick It to the Man uses this to develop its characters. They live within the game world, act and pursue their own dreams. They build their own relationships and consequently inject a healthy dose of humour into the game.
Which is to be expected, considering its genre. While the game may start as a bit of a offbeat platform game, it quickly shifts gears and reveals itself to be an old-school point and click adventure. A very welcome one at that.
The point and click element even forms its main gimmick: your player character’s brain is, by way of a happy accident, ‘enhanced’ to make a giant rubber hand stick out of your head. You point this hand at characters with the right stick and activate it with a button press, allowing you to read minds and ‘collect’ thoughts as stickers. These stickers in turn can be applied in the game world.
The result is a typical point and click adventure progression with a mental touch: you rummage through people’s minds in order to find the stickers needed to solve their (and hopefully your own) problems.
And the result is brilliant. The contrast between what a character says and thinks makes them come alive and provides excellent comedic relief while building on self-reference aspect mentioned before.
Finding and applying stickers is also a mercifully simple affair. That said, the game manages to deviate from its standard approach once, which immediately turns it into a difficult obstacle. It’s kind of surprising to experience how much flexibility within mechanics can complicate matters for players. It’s nothing a bit of lateral thinking can’t fix and it doesn’t ruin things. Don’t worry: there are no obtuse Sierra commands needed here.
The only true problem can maybe be found in its stealth sections. These require a bit of thumb dexterity and some quick sticker-stealing in stark contrast to the laid back approach of the rest of the game. It’s nothing too daunting; it just feels strange and oddly out of touch. Failing them forces a quick reset to a nearby checkpoint and considering those are placed just about everywhere, it won’t be much of a problem at all.
Regardless, the game comes highly recommended. It’s not the most time-consuming experience and can be completed in mere hours. Yet, the humour poured into its script and voice acting elevate it above other games and make you play on. I actually completed the game in one sitting. The game simply enamoured me with its humour, easy controls and steady progression.
Actually, I now realise that these days the only good point and click adventure turns out to be a point and stick adventure.