Over the course of its first year the Switch has been bombarded with ports. Stick It To The Man – originally released in 2013 and made available on the Wii U in 2014 – adds to the growing library of eShop re-releases on Nintendo’s latest device. Initially, this game was critically praised. Its story – penned by Adventure Time veteran Ryan North – is tied to a universe with morbid undertones and quirky humour. So now that Swedish developer Zoink has released it on the Switch, how does this 2.5D platform game hold up years later?
As we acknowledged within our Wii U eShop review in 2014, Stick It To The Man integrates the puzzle aspects of point and click classics into a platform game format to provide both a cohesive and modern touch throughout. Nothing about this has necessarily changed during the transition across to the Switch. It remains as faultless with the way it incorporates the different play styles together – as disruptive as this may sound to the natural flow of a platform game.
For those who haven’t played this title before, it’s about a guy named Ray who is a hard hat tester on a construction site. One day Ray cops a blow to the head (outside of work hours) when a mysterious package falls from the sky. He wakes up from the accident with a “giant spaghetti arm” sticking out of his brain and discovers he has gained unwanted attention from a mysterious group led by “The Man”. This bizarre premise is what drives the gameplay in Stick It To The Man.
Ray has essentially been gifted with the ability to read the minds of anyone around him to physically extract their thoughts – and then put them to use in a more practical manner around the world. The non-linear levels in this adventure are divided up into individual chapters, and you’ll regularly need to use Ray’s mind-reading ability to obtain necessary items in order to progress. When you gain an item in the form of a character’s thought, you’ll be able to apply it to a scene from nearby in a similar fashion to a point and click game – although it’s rather reminiscent of Paper Mario: Sticker Star on the 3DS where you could place stickers within the environment and a sequence would be activated. Like in certain Paper Mario games, you can also peel back layers of the surrounding cardboard environment to reveal additional areas, characters or helpful items or elements such as a flame which could be used to ignite a canon to fire a clown.
When you’re not searching about for items, the platform aspects include grappling with your alien-like arm to reach higher or lower locations and jump between the layers of a level – perhaps to escape an enemy who may be chasing you. If you don’t succeed or fall off a ledge you’ll reset at the nearest save point. All of this combined gives you the general basis of the gameplay within this title, and arguably within the short time frame the rinse and repeat design may not win everyone over despite its solid execution.
The adult themes and language in Stick It To The Man won’t be for everyone. This isn’t your average family friendly platform game, as accessible as it may be. You’ll discover there is a darker undertone to the universe – perhaps not immediately – but eventually when you witness a man with a noose around his neck because his girlfriend has left him for an older fellow. On face value it might not appear like a particularly sinister scene, but it’s characters like this that definitely set the tone of things to come. Another bizarre moment not far from this point is a cannibalistic chef who wants to spice up his human stew. As comedic as the dialogue and scenes can be – with references to pop culture and even video games – for the most parts it’s a twisted brand of humour with certain underlying themes that don't necessarily cater to all audiences.
The self-aware nature of Ray, where he makes observations about the game world around him and the mechanics, is similar to Conker narrating his own adventure in Conker's Bad Fur Day. While breaking the fourth wall is often applauded, in this case it does nothing overtly impressive. At best it adds a mild dose of humour to the overall package.
What’s most impressive about the port of Stick It To The Man is how well it runs on the Switch. It looks fabulous, drawing inspiration from Tim Burton’s works and titles such as Psychonauts. The cardboard diorama aesthetic pops out at the player, making the layering within each level easy to identify. The darker themes and dangers lurking about are reinforced by the fact most of the chapters play out in a night time setting. Themed areas range from freaky carnivals to a dimly lit cityscape.
There are no performance issues with the Switch version of the game – in fact this is one of the best ports for the system yet, from a technical standpoint – with the framerate consistent across the docked and handheld modes. The responsive controls are equally as impressive. About the only criticism is that the dark settings and fine details make the game harder to play in handheld mode. Character models and environments all look so tiny compared to how they are displayed on the big screen; as a result you might find yourself squinting a little bit in this mode. Adding to this is appropriately-themed music with both classical and psychedelic tunes, and quality voice acting to further immerse the player.
Stick It To The Man somewhat feels out of place on a Nintendo system. It’s a platform game based on a universe made up of darker themes and a large cast of wild and wacky characters; the story, along with the humour, is certainly twisted and won’t appeal to everyone. For those who do enjoy something more obscure from time to time, what’s on offer is a brief but relatively well-crafted title that incorporates several other sub-genres within it to create a weird and wonderful world.