Have you heard of StickType? No? Yeah I hadn’t either, but after sitting down and spending a good few hours pulling the last remaining hairs out of my head, enjoying myself profoundly and finding an ounce of complexity in a game designed with simplicity, I take my hat off to the one-man developer Michael Palotas for a job well done.
In a world in which triple-A budgets are soaring into unimaginable sums, visuals are scrutinised down to the finest details and even some of the most anticipated titles of the year have been taken down in a ball of flames with a poor reception from their players, is there really any space for an unknown, unexpected, and highly simple indie adventure to thrive? When you put it like that you wouldn’t think so, but StickType is a game that will stick with you for quite some time – and not just because it’s one of the hardest games you’re likely to ever play. See, StickType on Xbox One is an absolute joy to play thanks to it mastering the basics of platforming.
So, what is it about? Well, StickType is a platform game that tasks you with little more than reaching the top of a tower. Why? Well, because an S.O.S. message resonating from the very top is calling out for your assistance. Whilst that’s a good starter and sets the player up well to engage in the story and learn more about our stranded individual, it’s all the story you’ll get from the early stages of StickType. If you want to find out more about the why, when, and how from this point on, you’ll need to progress through the many rooms and floors of the tower and get to the top. That’s where the challenge comes in.
At the start of StickType, players begin their climb as nothing more than a bold Stick-ball, traversing the different platforms and obstacles that stand in the way, whilst an apparent outbreak of sorts is going on in the background; stick soldiers fighting off stick zombies and other stick creatures. It’s all a bit odd but it gives you something to try and figure out as you work your way through the rather basic environments.
As you continue on through the various areas reaching the bright doorway at the end of each section, the difficulty quickly ramps up with awkward platforms, hazards, enemies and other obstacles getting in the way. To progress through them you’ll need to find the various other stick character variants that can be unlocked – the StickBall, StickRunner, StickMan, StickNinja and StickAngel. When found these will enable you to face different threats with each variant acting as a type of evolutionary progression point, transforming your character into something slightly more capable than the last.
There are several things to pay attention to besides immediate platforming hazards and character variants though. Bosses appear every now and then, as do a wide array of hints and stick people to save; unexpectedly lost within the many secret areas that are hidden away. Should you save all 50 of the stick people, then a surprise will be awaiting you at the top of the tower. For those who like to explore every nook and cranny of a game, to find every last secret, StickType will be a dream come true.
To help you on your way to the top of the tower, each of the unlockable character variants come with their own attacks which players can utilise to combat the various enemies; StickBall brings a Ball attack, along with others that include StickPistol, StickSaber and FeatherAttack options. Attacks can be swapped swiftly when unlocked and those who choose to do so will find using the different advantages each brings as the key to progressing past the hardest areas.
Should you eventually make your way to the top, then that’s not everything done and dusted as there are five different game types included within StickType, each one giving you a slightly different way to attempt taking on the tower.
StickType is the standard game mode, however other options include LapType which brings a speedrunning counter to proceedings, StockType which speeds things up, NailType ups both the attack and speed rates, whilst SkinnyType brings 50% defense, 50% attack and Bulletproof to the game. It’s fair to say that if you want a slightly different challenge then the option is at least there for you to dig into.
What makes StickType so interesting though is just how simple everything is and just how well it works. Sure, the gameplay has – on occasions – had me near pulling out every remaining hair in my head, thanks to the slightest mistake ending in death, but with attacks proving basic to pull off, various stickfigures making up a decent variety of enemy and basic platforming delivering up the core gameplay experience, there is very little to dislike with StickType on Xbox One. It helps that everything that is included in the game does what it’s supposed to do, and it’s easy to see where you’ve gone wrong once you make a mistake. Not to mention it’s super simple to just pick up and play.
As you may expect, the visuals aren’t going to amaze, or push the boundaries of your Xbox One, however there is a level of beauty in the simplistic designs and despite the basic nature, there is still a great sense of depth to each of the locations. That is no easy feat when all you’ve really got to be going on with is a Stick-type design that looks like it’s been created on Windows 98.
The audio is equally as good and once again it’s a case of simplicity matching complexity as the audio brilliantly matches each gameplay segment perfectly, proving soothing on the ears as you climb higher up the tower.
Rarely do you find anything in StickType that goes beyond the basics, and with a story that doesn’t explain itself too well, and an overbearing difficulty on occasions, the less patient gamers may not want to stick around. However, should you be after a game that will push your capabilities, whilst providing all the essential qualities of a decent platforming experience, then StickType is a game that you need to play. The super cheap price point helps too!