I’m a sucker for old school adventure games, but they almost always fall short of my expectations. However, Stacking exceeded my expectations in almost every possible way.
Stacking is basically an adventure/puzzle game that’s old school in nature. The game was developed by Double Fine Productions and published by THQ on PSN and XBLA. The game is based on the Russian stacking dolls known as “matryoshkas”. In the game, you control Charlie Blackmore, the smallest doll, who has the ability to stack and into larger dolls and use their unique abilities. Charlie’s family has been kidnapped and it’s up to Charlie to save his family and put an end to cruel child labor enforced by the evil Baron. Each puzzle in the game has multiple creative solutions, adding quite a bit of depth to the title.
The heart of the game is stacking into other dolls. In many cases, you have to find specific dolls with specific skills to solve puzzles. While this may sound like a really strange concept, it becomes elementary after playing the game for a few minutes. If someone had told me that a game was being developed where you play as matryoshka dolls, I would have assumed the game to be fairly lame. That’s definitely not the case here. Double Fine hit a home run with this unique concept.
Each type of doll has specific skills or actions useful in solving puzzles. Most of the puzzles are actually very obvious, while a few others take a little brain work. If you’re stuck, the game gives you plenty of hints. From beginning to end, I never found myself frustrated with figuring things out. Most of the humor in the game comes from the dolls actions. It’s fun finding new dolls and figuring out what they can do.
As Charlie travels around trying to free his siblings, you will come across numerous areas with various puzzles to solve in order to progress further. In most cases, you can do the puzzles in any order you desire. The odds of getting completely stuck in the game are pretty low. If you can’t find a doll with the action you need, odds are they are in the next room or up a flight of stairs. The dolls you need are rarely far away.
While it’s never difficult to find one solution to a puzzle, it does become a little more difficult to find all solutions to a particular puzzle. Most things in the game are fairly obvious, which makes it a hassle-free experience, but it also made the game a little less challenging than I would have liked.
Visually the game is great. It has a very unique hand drawn art style and doesn’t look like any other game I have played. The graphics and sound are at or above the level you would expect from a downloadable title. There are quite a few silent film style cutscenes that add to the flavor. The cutscenes really set the tone for how unique and interesting Stacking really is.
In the end, Stacking is one of the most unique games I have played in recent memory. The game is fairly short (if you don’t do every solution for each puzzle) and can be completed in a couple gaming sessions. I finished the game the second day I had it, but I plan to go back and complete every solution. My only complaint about the game is that it could have been a little more challenging. Other than that, I’d say this is a “must buy” title for anyone on PSN or XBLA. Stacking is full of charm and has a memorable story that will stick with you for a while.