Stacking is the latest game from Tim Schafer and the minds over at Double Fine. This game is unlike any other game that you will find available on PSN or XBLA and is certainly a breath of fresh air. In this game you assume the role of Charlie Blackmore, a small Russian stacking doll. Your family has been kidnapped by the evil Baron and it is up to you to save them. The way that you do this is by stacking into other Russian dolls to solve all of the puzzles that you will come across. You start out as a really tiny doll and you will have to stack into bigger dolls to solve puzzles and advance in the game. You can only stack into a doll that is one size bigger than you though. If your goal is to eventually stack into an adult doll you will have to stack into three or four dolls beforehand so that you can get big enough to stack into the adult doll.
Each doll has a different ability that you can control that could potentially help you solve a puzzle. Each puzzle has multiple solutions for you to discover and experiment with. There is one instance towards the beginning of the game where you need to get into a place but there is someone guarding the entrance. When you look closely you can see there is a tiny grate by the door that leads inside. Looking around the environment you notice someone standing with a wrench. You can go over to that doll and stack into them which will allow you to control their actions. Utilizing your new doll you can go and open the crate, however, your new doll is too big to fit through the crate. This is where you would “unstack” back down to your small size so that you can fit into the crate and gain entry to where you needed to go. If you wanted to go another route you could find a female doll and stack into her. You would then go over to the guard and seduce him so that he moves away from the front door. Once the guard is busy paying attention to the female doll you can quickly unstack and get through the now unguarded door. There was another instance where there was a group of people that I had to clear out of a particular section. I did this by stacking into a doll with flatulence problems and then went into the middle of the crowd and let loose, which sent all of the other dolls running away.
There is, of course, a main storyline in this game and that is to save your family. Outside of that though there is quite a bit to do and see. There are various different challenges for you to complete and various different dolls to meet. Once you stack into a doll they will become part of your collection. As you progress in the game your friend Levi will build items in your hideout that represent your recent adventures. What he builds will be dependent on how complete your collection is. If you only have met half the dolls in any given area then the picture for that area will only be half complete. To see the whole picture you will need to add everyone to your collection. Stacking has a wonderful sense of humor and there are many hi-jinks for you to perform. There is one doll that has a white glove and goes around slapping other dolls as if he was challenging them to a duel. If you stack into him one of the “hi-jinks” challenges will be to slap five dolls. It can be pretty funny to walk up to another doll and slap them and then watch their reaction. There was another instance where there was an exhibit going on and I stacked into a doll that had a boxing glove on. Once I was controlling him I went to one of the exhibits and punched it which closed down the exhibit temporarily. It’s unlike any game you have ever played and it is a lot of fun to experiment with and see what kind of chaos you can create.
The story of Stacking is told in the style of silent films from the early 20th century. You have orchestral scores to set the mood and text on the screen in a stylized font so that you can see what the characters are talking about just like in an actual silent film from that era. This game seemed to click with me really well as I was never stuck for any length of time. If you do get stuck though there is a hint system that you can use that will help you solve your current dilemma. If you don’t know where to go next you can also hit a button and you will see a trail that shows the direction you should head to next. Once you go through a scene you can bring up the archive at any time to re-watch a cut scene or check out your log to revisit some of the conversations you have had or seen. If you are a completionist and you are trying to add every single doll to your collection you will be happy to hear that there is a collection section that you can check to see which dolls you have left to get. It is definitely a much better option than wandering around blindly and wondering whether the doll in front of you is in your collection or not.
Stacking is a delightful game. The team over at Double Fine have once again crafted a different kind of adventure that is enjoyable on all levels. Having multiple solutions to the puzzles you will encounter will definitely increase the replayability of this title. Experimenting with the different abilities that each doll has is a lot of fun and there is definitely the trademark Double Fine humor throughout the game. I highly recommend this title to anyone who enjoys puzzle games with a sense of humor that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is a demo on both XBLA and PSN so there is no excuse not to give this game a chance. Be sure not to miss out on what is sure to be one of the most original and enjoyable arcade titles that you have played in a long time.
Originally posted on Totally Gaming Network