Mento's May Mastery: Day 16: Stick It To the Man!

It's the weekend, which means I get to hit the backlog even harder for the next couple of days. It's a good thing that writing a thousand word blog every day doesn't ever feel like work.

It's weird, but I feel like that IGA Kickstarter completely stole the thunder of Yooka-Laylee. I'm aware that the latter has nothing to worry about, having hit all its stretch goals and then some (though I'm hoping they still hit that $2mil so I can get some free DLC out of it), but both are based on games released on two dates within very close proximity. While the new IGA game is far more reminiscent of Order of Ecclesia, what with its tattooed enigmatic heroine, the ludicrous promotional push for the project seems to be focusing on the 1997 game-changer that was Symphony of the Night; IGA's first Castlevania game and the SpaceWhipper model for those to follow. Banjo-Kazooie, Yooka-Laylee's more than overt inspiration, was released the following year of 1998. It's entirely coincidental that the two projects should happen this close together, given the amount of planning needed for such elaborate Kickstarter campaigns and how both projects were underway long before the crowd-sourcing even began, but it does present an interesting pattern with recent nostalgia-driven Kickstarters: I recently played Pillars of Eternity, which was inspired by a game engine that was first seen in 1998's Baldur's Gate, and am presently looking forward to a spiritual sequel to 1999's Planescape: Torment. (Plus, Tim Schafer last made an adventure game in 1998 with Grim Fandango before Broken Age happened, which is what Broken Age's KS used to suggest what a new Double Fine adventure game might be like. I mean, if we're going to shoehorn in a link to every big video game KS to this dumb little observation anyway...) I'm starting to wonder if there isn't something wistful about that specific period that's conducive to Kickstarter projects.

Eh, probably just overthinking it. It was a great few years for games, and the kids who grew up with those formative titles now have the disposable income to make reboots and re-imaginings happen. I guess what I'm really curious about is what game from 1997-99 is next to get a Kickstarter reboot/spiritual successor. (Probably something inspired by 1998's Metal Gear Solid, if Kojima has any plans beyond twiddling his thumbs until MGS5 is out.)

Stick It to the Man

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I was initially drawn to Zoink!'s Stick It to the Man after seeing it on Giant Bomb where it was made out to be some kind of combination of Psychonauts and Paper Mario. Lovable dimwit Ray ends a terrible day with a giant clonk on his head, unleashing heretofore unknown psychic powers that manifests as a gigantic pink spaghetti arm poking out of his head. The hand can use telepathy, reading the minds of NPCs and seeing their true heart's desires, and is also able to physically propel Ray towards grapple points in the environment and can collect objects both corporeal and abstract. The game has a sketchbook aesthetic, so these grapple points are push-pins and the player is often tearing away a leaf of paper to reveal the contents of a building, or are snatching stickers from people's thoughts for some adventure game style puzzles. It's quite a bizarre game to explain in words, which is why I'm not particularly pleased that Giant Bomb never bothered to Quick Look it; the Giant Bomb video of it I saw was part of an episode of Unprofessional Fridays, which won't help anyone here who doesn't already have a membership.

Sorry to drop yet another comparison to a different video game, but I swear that this one has a little more relevance: Airtight's Murdered: Soul Suspect. Both are supernatural-themed games, both deal with solving adventure game puzzles via unusual circumstances and both are what I would consider to be merely average. What's more, this averageness is due to one shared facet: superfluous stealth action sequences. If I'm invested in an adventure game, it's because of its puzzles and its story, which also includes narrative elements like a good script and well-developed characters. Both games clearly focused on these components and did them well, so they didn't need to listen to the jerk at the back of the room yelling, "Hey, I'm bored as hell with the witty writing and puzzles and character moments, where are the forced stealth sequences to jazz things up?".

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So yeah, Stick It to the Man, despite having a brilliant - if only occasionally laugh-at-loud hilarious - comedic script (penned by Ryan North, better known by the internet for his erudite clipart dinosaur wrangling), some neat ideas for puzzles and a striking art design of flappy-jawed grotesques in an eerie, sinister world of loose leaf walls and cardboard cutouts, felt the need to every so often force the player to run and jump past a bunch of guards, evading their line of sight and using the grapple pins to out-maneuver them once they're on your tail. Like in Murdered, the first time it happens it's a neat little diversion to shake up the standard graphic adventure game trappings and adds an element of suspense and danger to the gameplay. After the fifth or sixth instance, it had lost its novelty and simply became a tiresome chore to deal with before the next part of the story could be reached. Even so, the sad fact is that without these sequences the game is almost as paper-thin as its environments. The puzzles don't take a whole lot of sussing out, given that the game helpfully points out every relevant hotspot and NPC with a pink question mark on its map, which narrows down where to go next to perhaps the point of redundancy. There's a few optional sidequests that mostly lead to cute story moments and more jokes, and an ongoing collectible sidequest to read the minds of every NPC in the game (the game will log this statistic on the chapter select screen, in case you miss a few somewhere), but the game's chiefly concerned with a handful of brief scenarios with an amusing script that's interrupted with obnoxious action sequences every few minutes. If that still sounds like your kind of gaming experience, by all means check it out.

That's one heck of a pull, game. I don't think I've even touched that wiki page yet.
That's one heck of a pull, game. I don't think I've even touched that wiki page yet.

Also, the game makes heavy use of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's "I Just Checked In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)", i.e. that one song from the dream sequence in The Big Lebowski, and I'm really wondering how many more references we need to that movie. It's not like Stick It to the Man's light on dream sequences either; they take up approximately half the game. I'm just surprised it never asked me to find a stranger in the alps.

Wait, when did The Big Lebowski come out, again? 1998?! Oh nooooo.

Day 01: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 11: MiasmataDay 21: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 02: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 12: BotaniculaDay 22: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 03: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 13: BotaniculaDay 23: The Nightmare Cooperative & Lilly Looking Through
Day 04: Life of PixelDay 14: Shantae: Risky's RevengeDay 24: Cook, Serve, Delicious!
Day 05: Life of PixelDay 15: Bit Dungeon IIDay 25: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 06: SPAZDay 16: Stick it to the Man!Day 26: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 07: SPAZDay 17: NaissanceEDay 27: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 08: NightSkyDay 18: The SwapperDay 28: The Banner Saga
Day 09: The RoomDay 19: ClaireDay 29: The Banner Saga
Day 10: Ultionus: A Tale of Petty RevengeDay 20: DokuroDay 30: The Banner Saga
Finale: Papers, Please