I have a soft place in my heart for stick figures. They have been a powerful aspect of internet culture since the early to mid-2000s. Simplistic, often genderless drawings often made to convey comedy or outrageous, highly stylized depictions of 2D violence. In my youth I found myself on YouTube for hours on end watching animations that users made in Pivot (an animation software used specifically for stick figures). Exciting times they were. Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood I’ve found myself wanting to relive those hilarious, outrageous videos in an interactive way. Thankfully, my wait is over. The team at Free Lives have brought us Stick It to the Stickman. And my god, is it fun.
Stick It To The Stickman sees you literally climb the corporate ladder in a seemingly endless battle to the death. Your character is a blue stick figure who has no name or discernable personality traits. They are a stick figure after all. Your goal is simple; destroy everyone and collect upgrades as you go from level-to-level of your corporate office building. Your enemies are red stickman that exist in various shapes, sizes, and attributes.
Stick It to the Stickman is a game that’s easy to play, but challenging to master. The controls are incredibly simple. I’d compare them to that of a Super Mario game on a Nintendo handheld. You can jump, run, climb, and attack. The game is a rogue-like, so you’re always on your toes as every playthrough is different from the last. The bosses don’t even repeat in the same order so you have to use strategy and section out your moves carefully if you plan on succeeding.
The interesting thing about the attack system in Stick It is the fact that all attacks are mapped to the spacebar in a particular order. This depends on what upgrades you decide to acquire and when. For example, one of your workers moves is the ability throw knives. These knives have ammo and can only be thrown about every four or five moves. So if you have someone to hit at a distance and you have low health, you’ll have to be evasive and cycle all through all of your moves in order to finally throw that knife.
While the controls are simple, there are strategic aspects to the game that aren’t made obvious right away. With the jump button you can basically run up the sides of enemies if they’re cornering you. This make for some awesome John Wick style moments throughout your playthrough. You can also kick enemies out of windows if you’re overwhelmed which truly never gets old. Jumping over enemies and the aforementioned window kick becomes more necessary as you climb through stages due to the sheer amount of enemies on screen.
What makes this game unique is its subversion of expectations and great sense of humor. Everything from the visuals, the sound effects, the pop culture references; it all feels genuine and like a labor of love. The funniest thing in the game to me is a move called ‘You’re Fired’. It’s a move in which your stickman simply points at another stickman and says (you guessed it!) ‘you’re fired’ in variety of comedic cadences. Afterwards, the adversary proceeds to catch ablaze. It’s effective every time and I did not get tired of hearing my stickman yell it.
The game also blatantly references the Street Fighterfranchise as moves like Shoryuken and Hadouken are in-fact unlockable. I found this surprising, but a welcome surprise to say the least. You can also kick or punch enemies, which goes with out saying as one of the most engaging methods of combat. There’s nothing like watching a stickman flail uncontrollably.
The game’s presentation is something that I would call mesmerizing. Everything feels cheeky, but just a tad off and a little unsettling. The music is exciting and invokes a spirit of urgency which really pulls me into the zaniness of the game’s world. The colorful stickmen contrast from the cool greys and muted browns of the office backgrounds in a way that feels almost surreal. For a game that looks as simple as it does, it creates an engaging atmosphere effectively.
There’s a lot to get excited about in this indie title. The physics based combat, the soundtrack, and bursts of unexpected, off-the-wall humor make this a must buy. Stick It to the Stickman arrives on Steam in 2023. You can wish list it now. There is an older release that the developers have made available for free. I can’t wait to play the full version on Steam next year and I suggest you do the same. I sincerely hope this game and it’s influence inspires more rogue-lite titles like it.
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