Release Date: 2/09/11
Developer: Double Fine
Available Platforms: XBLA, PSN
MSRP: 1200MSP, $15.00
ESRB Rating: E10+
Stacking is the latest download only game from the cats over at Double Fine Productions. Double Fine is, and always has been known for their quirky games, and Stacking is no different. Actually check that, it’s crazy different. In stacking you play the smallest member of a family of chimney sweeps trying to squeak out a living in or around the 1930’s. The hook here is, everyone in the world is a Russian matryoshka doll.
As Charlie Blackmore, you are the tiniest of the Blackmore family. Unfortunately for you, your entire family has been basically sold into child labor slavery, to toil in the factories and various equipment of a nasty Industrial Baron (know simply as “The Baron”). Since Charlie is the last of his family left, he takes it upon himself to free the rest, and stop the evil Baron. However, just because your are small in stature does not mean that you are helpless, quite the contrary in fact. Since Charlie is so small he is able to stack into the other matryoshka dolls around him with out being noticed.
Stacking at it’s core is a puzzle game. In order to get through certain situations and solve all of the puzzles that come before Charlie, he literally has to “stack” into other people around him. It sounds silly, but it is a lot of fun. Once Charlie is inside another person (or persons) he is able to take on their rolls, and gain their abilities. One of the first puzzles the player is given, is to stop a Union strike at the railroad. In order to do so Charlie will have to bring all of the heads of the railroad together to have them talk. Some of them are locked behind doors and Charlie has to figure out a way to get those people out so he can stack into them and end the crisis.
Stacking has probably the most personality of any game I have played on XBLA. Each character that Charlie encounters has their own place in the social structure of the game and as such has their own special abilities. That may be anything from a firm handshake, to rancid gas, even an evil clown that keeps kids in line. All these abilities not only help Charlie solve the specific puzzles but also add a bit more depth to the game-play it self. There are at minimum three different ways to solve each puzzle. There are also “Hi-jinks” to pull off for some special characters (like slapping 10 people) that stretch out the game time a bit as well. Each doll appears to be “hand drawn” and has quite a lot of detail to what is basically a flat surface. Interesting side note; you can actually purchase a set of the dolls used in the game from DoubleFine.com.
Overall this game is great. It’s got plenty to keep your attention. However the one big drawback here is that once you have solved all the puzzles, found all the characters and accomplished all the hi-jinks, there really isn’t anything left. I was able to finish the game in a weekend, probably about 6-8 playing hours. Now that isn’t a bad thing at all. Most download only games, hell even some disc releases don’t last that long, but it still is a very definitive end. Should double fine want to keep this game going they would need to rework a few things or have some sort of extended missions with Charlie in order to pump out some DLC. I’m not saying it’s not possible, just not probable. Also, it does get a bit “cut scene” heavy at times, but given the character in those cut scenes, it’s almost forgivable.
From start to finish this was just an overall enjoyable game. The setting, the characters, the music, even down to the way that the other dolls react when you stack into another is just charming. If you enjoy the Double Fine brand of games, or just want to solve puzzles in a completely different way than you ever have before, this could be a good game to check out.
- + Charming and charismatic on just about every front
- + Offers several different paths to the same end
- – For the completionist, you will have one play through tops
- – Doesn’t seem to be much room for DLC
Final Score 8 out of 10