Stick it to the Stickman Hands-On Preview – Rise and Grind

Posted on September 2, 2022

Stick it to the Stickman is an action rogue-like where players must control a stickman figure that’s an intern, fighting the powers that be to rise to CEO. This venture comes from Broforce developer Free Lives, along with popular publisher Devolver Digital. We’ve had an early taste of the game ahead of its fresh reveal, and with it came promises of hectic, explosive fun.

The premise and narrative on offer is light. A friend puts in a good word for you at their job and gets you a position. On your first shift, your boss instantly asks you to beat up this very friend and take over their role. Talk about cutthroat. From there, players must use take advantage of the brawling and rogue-like mechanics to ascend the office building floor by floor, picking up ‘promotions’ and abilities the higher they climb. This takes place on a 2D plane in my demo experience, but later workplaces you work through, including a warehouse and science centre, look to enter the 3D space.

At first glance, Stick it to the Stickman bears a striking resemblance to Aggro Crab’s Going Under. Both have you play an intern that’s being taken advantage of at a successful company. Both are in a rogue-like setting, fighting for progression. However, here the world feels more congruent with the gameplay at hand. Instead of delving deep into dungeons, you’re making your way up office building floors, hoping to climb the ranks.

The world design is also more minimalistic to help highlight the monotony and cruelty of the corporate world. Everything in that first dungeon is monochromatic save for yourself, a glowing blue stickman and your enemies, red stickmen. This decision doesn’t feel safe either. It’s actually a bit of a risk. Having every figure unvaried in their design highlights how no-name everyone is.

As for how progression will work, Stick it to the Stickman looks to remain primarily a brawling experience, with some weaponry. Different ‘builds’ are unlocked the further you progress and the more runs you complete. You start off with the temp but in my time with the demo, I unlocked a ‘caffeine addict’ and a ‘weeb’ build. The former has more of an emphasis on speed and throwable items in coffee mugs. Meanwhile, animations were even more altered in the latter, leaving my character to run with their arms behind them as if they were a ninja in Naruto, erupting in violent sword, shuriken (and even a Hadouken) gameplay.

Players won’t pick up weapons in a run, instead adding to their diversity of moves and animations. A regular kick can become a bicycle kick to crowd control, a regular punch can become a powerful slam, and so on. These variations can also depend on your build, all controlled by the one attack button, cycling through an attack per press.

This is a really interesting approach, making things more straightforward and clear, which is thankful. Stick it to the Stickman can be a joyously unwieldy game at times as your own hero, and the foes around you, will ragdoll around and bounce off each other. Having lesser inputs in this context comes out for the better, though I can’t help but feel like a built-in dodge is missing — meatier enemies’ attacks with weapons such as stapler guns or brooms with reach feel a little unfair and avoidable at times. Dodges and rolls are instead limited to builds and pickups.

As expected for the genre, passive abilities are some of the other pickups. Heals and modifiers to some of your attacks or your damage taken and others apply. These are given to players quite generously, meaning you won’t feel disadvantaged with any exact build.

In my hour or so with the demo, constrained to the first dungeon, I’ve witnessed floors that feature a fight club between employees I’ve had to throw my weight around in, raves and stocky foes with staple guns, to name a few. I’ve yet to scratch the surface on wacky instances and environments, deep build progressions and more. I can’t wait to see what awaits.

Stick It To The Stickman releases sometime in 2023. Stay tuned for a release date. I know I will.