Who says games can't be funny?
It’s a case of good things come to those who wait, as Zoink! Games’ zany adventure finally appears on the Xbox One.It’s an unashamedly stylish title that zips along, using minimalistic mechanics in order to keep a good pace and its madcap humour at the fore. Harking back to the likes of Day of the Tentacle, it aims squarely at absurdism and manages to be that rarest of games - one that’s actually funny.
The story - of a young man involved in an accident which gives him special powers, only to be chased by shadowy authoritarian forces - is hardly new, in fact it’s the blueprint for far too many games and works of fiction to count.
What sets Zoink!’s offering apart is that the cliche is only a jumping off point, the power in question is a pink telekinetic arm that pokes out of our protagonist Rays head, and he can read minds.
The basic set up is the last nod to a reference that you might consider stable ground before you’re thrown headlong into a world that’s more akin to a dream, full of strangely illogical - yet somehow understandable - happenings and surreal imagery.
Funny lookingIt’s a small touch, but it’s always nice when a menu screen acts a perfect example of what you can expect in the game proper. Here, the neon sky and lo-fi cardboard cut-out objects are a backdrop for Kenny Rogers and the First Edition’s Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) to crank up. I don’t mind admitting I sat through it more than once during my sessions with the game.
The rest of the audio is similarly snappy, with some great use of music and cartoonish voice acting. The latter occasionally comes close to repetition of the same schtick, but as long as you’re not playing the game through in one or two sittings it stays pretty fresh.
It’s the humour that underpins everything.
The art style is of the intentionally primitive, reminiscent of the paper diorama effect used by LittleBigPlanet and countless others in its wake, utilising two dimensional objects, rendered beautifully but designed to look like childish attempts. It’s an aesthetic that can be style over substance, but the vivid colours, faux film grain and more importantly, the humour, sell it perfectly.
Funny gameAnd it’s the humour that underpins everything. From Ray’s job, as a hardhat tester who gets objects dropped on him for a living, to the weird interactions with characters such as Elvis, the game goes to great lengths to keep a steady stream of the absurd coming your way.
There’s always a danger that this kind of zany adventure can come across as contrived, the bombardment of supposed wackiness proving counterproductive, but Stick It To The Man avoids that pitfall, and if anything the funniest moments are the bizarre asides. For instance, there’s no real reason to have a man trapped in a boot enthusing about Silver Surfer on the NES, yet it works as an odd and gloriously geeky moment.
As for the actual gameplay itself that lies under all that style and humour, well that’s far more straightforward. Each chapter is a long map with minimal switching of planes from background to foreground, but within are housed numerous characters with problems that need to be solved. You have to pluck objects with your giant pink head hand, then find the right place to stick them, similar once again to LittleBigPlanet’s use of stickers, amongst other games to use that idea.
The objects are either found around the environment in plain sight, need to be found behind scenery that can be peeled back or, most interestingly, pulled from the thought bubbles of people whose minds you’ve read.
This creates a nice layering to each encounter, as you enter a scene, listen to the characters speak, then delve inside their heads to uncover their innermost thoughts. Because there’s an order to what needs to be done, most of the items you accumulate will be oddities that don’t have any obvious use. Once you’ve interacted with everyone, then a vague idea of what needs to be done, and possibly how it can be achieved is hatched.
Funny logicThe logic though matches the madcap visuals as it’s entrenched in the weird characterisation of the people you meet. The scene of your first encounter lets you know how far out of the box you need to be thinking, as you must steal the teeth of an ageing disco dancing mafioso in order to avert a spurned lover’s thus far bungling suicide attempt.
The truly startling thing about it all is how quickly you adapt to this skewed world, and begin to piece together how each puzzling scene should unfold. Re-inflating a dead whale or finding a wig for a Sasquatch starts to feel normal after an hour or two.
Re-inflating a dead whale or finding a wig for a Sasquatch starts to feel normal after an hour or two.
There’s some minor platforming added in for good measure, but it relies more on some simple stealth gameplay than anything else. Jumping onto platforms to avoid the gaze of goons, and slapping stickers onto their faces is rarely taxing as there’s no real predetermined route that needs to be found. The AI follow you away from their posts and you can then often just outrun them thanks to your ability to grab drawing pins embedded in the scenery with your long arm in order to ping yourself quickly across the screen.
At around five hours in length, it’s a very brief run, with some limited replay value to see everything in each level. Yet it’s still a rewarding game, largely due to its quirkiness and the weird logic it asks you to buy into. If it stayed around for much longer, you could argue you’d be getting better value for money, but I tend to think the joke would then outstay its welcome. It works perfectly as a fast, breezy absurdist puzzler that keeps the jokes coming thick and fast.
- Great art style
- Quick pace
Stick It To The Man! Xbox One ReviewStick It To The Man is simple in all the right areas and stylish to the max. It creates the right vibe for you to take its madcap humour in the way it was intended, which infuses every part of the game.
The puzzles and platforming won’t halt your progress, as the easy difficulty and fast pace whisk you through, from one bizarre encounter to the next, progressing to the point where you won’t even question the weird happenings or the supposed logic of the solutions you need to find.
It’s short, funny and should be appreciated by anyone with fond memories of older, more absurd point and click titles.
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