The Dark Humor Horse of Indie Games: Stick It To The Man! [Switch] Review

So, when this game fell into my lap, I have only seen pictures and small clips of Stick It To The Man, which the title’s namesake didn’t even make much sense until the very end. Was I about to play some hippy game where we spray paint flowers on cop cars and do peaceful protest? I know it was one of the “Steam-To-Switch” releases that have been swarming the new console (and with great success), but even at first glance, the main character threw me off. He looks like a cross between the Simpsons and Paper Mario given a burlesque touch, for goodness sakes. What I thought I was getting myself into and what I played for four and a half hours was something entirely different, however; if I may venture into a broad explanation, it felt like an almost family-friendly version of South Park in terms of wild scenarios and wacky situations. There’s no swearing, for those goody two shoes out there, but I witnessed the unraveling of the Don trying to smoke off his competition to a dance by sending his goons Mario and Luigi (with realistic mental representations to their Nintendo counterparts) to cement the poor guy’s feet and drop him off the docks. I was sent to an insane asylum where my first motivation of escape was to convince a woman, who referred to herself as “The Black Widow”, to capture and presumably devour the nearest caretaker. Heck, I “resolved” a lover’s quarrel between a General and his officers by making him pregnant. There was a zombie romance building up over a shotgun. I kid you not.

So what’s the story? Some unfortunate schmuck named Ray is returning from his normal job of safety helmet testing (which includes him wearing different degrees of headwear protection and then dropping heavy objects on him) when a secret class aircraft is flying overhead. As the entire world is incorporated as paper, a rainstorm is literally ripping the plane to shreds and drops what looks like a nuclear missile. In the most comedic fashion you can imagine, the bomb in question lands on Ray’s head with a sickening thud and knocks him out. The bomb was just a joke container, whose true purpose was to transport an alien lifeform named Ted, who quickly escapes his now-defunct prison and resides in Ray’s head, giving him telepathic and telekinetic powers. Attempting to just try to get home and live a normal life with his girlfriend, Arlene, Ray must progress through a series of chapters in this story, each a specific biome wrenched with people’s personal issues, puzzles, and government ne’er-do-well swabbies.

The goal of the game? Ray’s a simple man who just wants to live on as ordinarily as possible. When obstacles force him to intervene with the local townsfolk of each area, however, he does the best he can by reading people’s thoughts. Occasionally, you can peel the front of buildings off to find people suffering tragedies, and by single-handedly fixing each person’s problems, you will go through a series of events that will lead you on to the next level. Often it’s just a matter of ripping people’s thought bubble objects out and using them as real-life objects to, cartoonishly, fix the matter at hand. I pulled an alligator (or crocodile, I didn’t make sure) out of a pipe using a cannibal cook’s human limb and used his teeth to arm a small pup to attack her past bullies. I could not make this stuff up.

The pace is smooth and even, provided you’re able to take the context clues of each event as you progress through an area. An ambient array of music will flow in individual sections, and boy do they mix it up; funky jazz when you’re being chased, soft rock when you’re dealing with trained zombies trying to become musical, they nearly cover every genre you can think of in an excellently written music score. Here's a taste of the main villain's theme, also known as The Man.

The voice acting is remarkable given what you’d expect for an $11.99 game, although I do want to point out it’s currently $7.99 on Steam and I do not know what the 50% price hike is for. I understand people love money and they took time out of their day to build a rocking (although glitchy, seeing how I hard crashed once and had a 20-second freeze another time) port for the Switch, but they must also consider that doing so means opening more pathways for people to purchase their game. On the other hand, we see Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ is demanding forty buckaroos for the Switch when you can buy it for $24 as of today on Steam. Opinions in perspective, and meanwhile people buying Indie games for the Switch are like:

Did I like it? Oh heck yes I did, I loved 90% of the time I was playing. The other 10% can be attributed to being a dumb-dumb and not knowing where to look at next (clue: the map shows every person and sticker-able spot in the area for you to explore) and when I’m forced to deal with poor coding and aiming formulas for the little hand sticking out of your head, as often enough I’m trying to yank a thought out of a goon’s head to slap him asleep and I’ll instead launch myself over to be tasered to death. It wasn’t pretty.

I can’t speak for the PC version, but four and a half hours of gameplay with wacky dark humor, awkward scenarios, and socially questionable tropes had me laughing a lot here. Social Justice Warriors beware, this game isn’t for you. Those too sensitive to the underbelly of today’s society (read: special snowflakes) will do wise to avoid this game. Anyone who can take a joke and roll with it, however, is going to love this game.