Stickman’s Arena is a top-down auto-shooter from eastasiasoft. It’s the latest entry into a genre popularised by Vampire Survivors that has, so far, had a series of fairly mediocre games show up on PSN. So, can Stickman’s Arena improve on such recent games as Remedium Sentinels and Hero Survival?
The game itself gives you a handful of playable characters to pick from, each with various advantages and disadvantages, and then throws you into an arena, essentially a large wrestling ring, where you have to survive twenty waves of enemies who make a beeline for you in an effort to separate you from your hit points.
You start off with a choice of weapon and you’ll attack with it whenever an enemy gets in range, with the game picking the target based on proximity. You just control your character’s movement with the left stick or d-pad, combat is automatic in these games.
When you survive a wave, you’ll be offered a choice of items (these add and subtract stats, so pick wisely) if you’ve levelled up enough and then you’ll be thrown into a shop where you can buy new items and weapons with money picked up during combat. You can equip up to six weapons and if you’ve got two of the same type, you can combine them into one stronger weapon. As the waves pass, the enemy threat gets stronger and new foes are added but, hopefully, you’ll pick wisely and will have a build going that allows you to keep winning.
And that is Stickman’s Arena. Sure, we could talk about the different weapons and items but beyond those, there’s not much else to it. And that’s kind of weird because up until now we could have pretty much have been describing Brotato which has been this reviewer’s most played game of the year (albeit on the Switch). The games certainly share a lot of DNA. The core gameplay is the same, in both games you play as a character with six disembodied arms, in both games you combine weapons of the same type, in both games your goal is to get to level 20. So, with no PSN version of Brotato being out, this should have gotten close to scratching that itch.
Unfortunately, this game does everything worse than Brotato. From the gameplay which is slow, unexciting and easy enough that you’ll beat the game in your first attempt without any struggle (where as Brotato is often maddeningly difficult but in a way that is more addictive than butterscotch-flavoured crack), the weapons which here are uninspired, the items which are bland and just affect stats rather than meaningfully changing anything in the gameplay and the unlockable characters (Brotato has dozens, this game has one).
But it’s not just that stuff where this game struggles. The basic things aren’t done well either. Like the interface, which is clunky and uninformative (and what is going on with the selection box colours when you’re moving around your weapons in the shop screen?) and the slippery animations. The press information talks about endless replay value but there’s basically none. I mean, you could complete the game with all the characters but what’s the point when you’ll invariably beat the game first time with all of them. The trophies are all based around clearing the twenty waves, so there’s no incentive there to keep playing, and you can’t unlock new weapons or items. It’s like everything that Brotato does well has been ignored in Stickman’s Arena.
The thing is, the fixes are obvious. Improve the menus, add some harder difficulty settings, make the items more interesting and add more unlockable characters. The developers don’t need to be told this. They know what they’ve made. They’ve seen Brotato and they’ve made an open mic night tribute act version of it that misses the mark and, really, the point of the whole game. But on the plus side, it’s cheap, it didn’t crash on us and it’ll give you two Platinums in well under an hour.
+ Basically playable and bug-free
+ Two quick Platinums
- Amateur UI design
- Insultingly easy
- Lacks any kind of longevity