Game Night, Review, Video Games

The Henry Stickman Collection: If At First You Don’t Succeed, You’re Playing It Correctly

I’ve never really talked about them before, but I love flash games. They’re the perfect encapsulation of pure creativity. They didn’t have a big budget and they weren’t made to make money. They were made by people who just wanted to make fun games and put them on the internet. Put simply, they’re pure. Uncorrupt. Just a pure expression of creativity.

Also, they got me through high school. Although my teacher very frequently got mad at me for playing them in class.

I don’t remember exactly when it was, but at some point, my brothers and I discovered the second Henry Stickman game, ‘Escape the Prison’. We all fell in love with it immediately and played it over and over again. From there, we all played all the games several times. We loved this shit. But after some time, they vanished from our lives.

And then, out of nowhere, it came back. The Henry Stickman Collection released on Steam. And with it, a brand-new entry. The final story in this hilarious saga. Was it worth my fifteen USD?

I dunno. Give me a second to catch my breath and we’ll find out.

Story: A True Choose-Your-Own Adventure

Get out of here, David Cage! Fuck yourself, Telltale! This is what a choose-your-own adventure game should be!

You play as Henry Stickman, master thief and escape artist. Each of the games features a different one of his adventures, from his first heist to him breaking out of jail and sabotaging a criminal organization. How these adventures end is entirely up to you. Do you sneak through like a shadow? Or do you go in guns blazing?

Part of what makes this game work is the logic. Or in this case, the lack thereof. Each option could very well be the correct one, no matter how absurd and worthless it might seem. Is it the obscure game reference? The simple, logical approach? Or is it the magic item that Henry pulled out of his ass? Only one way to find out!

And, of course, there are multiple endings. Better yet, in the case of the new game exclusive to this collection, the endings of the other games (at least two of them) actually dictate the entire story! And even better yet still: you get to decide which endings to go with! Did you enjoy these two endings in particular and want to see the story progress from there? Do it, that’s your choice! The game completely validates all of your choices!

It isn’t like other multi-ending games, where there’s technically only one canon ending. Here, every ending is canon. Except for the VH ending. That one makes me too sad to be canon.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the writing can be surprisingly good at times? Like, these games are goofy as fuck and they fully embrace that. But there’s an ending in here that actually makes me tear up consistently!

It’s incredible that a flash game has the ‘best choose-your-own-adventure’ game title. But honestly, I can’t think of one better! It genuinely allows the player to choose their own story from beginning to end! And what a goofy, funny story it is!

Presentation: If he’s called Stickman and he is a stick man, is that like me calling myself John Hughman?

I now need to name a character John Hughman.

If I had to summarize how this game looked in one sentence, it would be ‘Newgrounds’. It very much looks like an animation from the early days of the internet, back before everything sucked. Like the whole thing was made in Flash before it was turned into Adobe Animate or whatever the hell it’s called now.

Literally every character is a stick-figure. Yet, somehow, they each have a pretty distinct design, with a single, cartoonishly exaggerated feature, like their hat or hair. It gives the game a simplistic charm.

Especially when the animation decides to skyrocket! Like, most of the game is pretty nicely animated to begin with! But every now and then, it’ll just skyrocket! It can be really impressive!

Gameplay: Choose and Click

Uh… yeah, that’s about it. All you really do is click an option and watch it play out. Often to hilarious results, yes. But in terms of interaction, there really isn’t much there, outside of the typical quick-time event.

Now, this game is unique in one way: it’s more rewarding to fail than it is to succeed. If you choose the wrong option, you’ll be treated to a unique little defeat animation. Not all of these are winners, but those that are? They are some of the funniest little bits I’ve ever seen! And better yet: since the internal logic of the game is so absurd, it’s impossible to tell which choice is the right one! And with the in-game map system, which lets you go back to any choice you want, you can see every single result with incredible ease!

Yeah, in terms of gameplay, this one isn’t the deepest. But what did you expect? It’s a flash game. It’s kind of hard to craft a deep gameplay experience that’ll run on Chrome. Just look at Warcraft 3: Reforged!

Ha! That’s called a joke!

Conclusion

This game isn’t complex. It doesn’t have some deep message. It isn’t some mind-boggling achievement of game design. It’s just a goofy game that wants to make you laugh.

And it. Is. Glorious!

If you’ve never experienced the Henry Stickman saga, you absolutely need to fix that! Seriously, it’s only fifteen bucks! And it’ll only take you about a day to play through it all! Get a bunch of friends, get some drinks, and enjoy a good laugh! Because there are few games funnier than this one!

Fuck, dude. Now I need to play it again!

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