Review: Stacking

Posted: March 8, 2011 by Tony Polanco in REVIEWS

The video game market has been flooded by games about Russian stacking dolls lately.  One would think that this trend would have worn out its welcome but here we have yet ANOTHER rsd game, this time by one of the most unimaginative studios you could find, Double fine.  Even though I’m getting tired of these kind of games it’s my duty to review Stacking so here we go.

In case you haven’t guessed by now, the opening paragraph was total BS.

Stacking is by far one of the most unique games that you will ever play.  I can’t even compare it to anything else because (unless there is a similar game out there) I’ve never played anything like this before.  Double fine studios and head honcho Tim Schafer are known for making some of the most unique, charming and hilarious games out there and their latest masterpiece, Stacking is just as good as anything in their catalog.

In Stacking you play as Charlie Blackmore.  In a world where everyone is a stacking doll, he is an outsider because he just so happens to be the smallest stacking doll.  One day his entire family is kidnapped by an evil industrialist Baron (rich people are evil after all) and it’s up to the diminutive Charlie to rescue them and defeat the Baron.  Despite his small stature, Charlie has a very special talent which will not only help him in his quest but provide the linchpin mechanic of this game.

Little Charlie has the ability to not only enter other stacking dolls but take them over and use that doll’s specific abilities to solve puzzles or to cause some fun mischief.  You can enter into as many as five dolls but you can only enter a doll that is exactly one size bigger than you are.  You can’t have Charlie enter a huge doll right away.  He’ll have to stack into several other dolls of ascending size.  Once you enter the dolls you will in essence become that doll and every other doll will react to you in different ways depending on what type of doll you are inside of.

The best way to explain how you use doll abilities is to give you some examples.  Say you need to unlock a door. You would need to find a gatekeeper doll (who just so happens to have a giant key on his head) and use him to open it. Or say you want to clear a room full of people.  You can get inside of a flatulent doll and have him fart into the ventilation shaft.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.  Okay done.

You can also combine different abilities.  For example if you need to create a huge fire you would first use a doll with an oil can on his head to spread oil around and then have a doll with a candle on his head ignite the oil to conjure a big flame blast.  Trying out the different abilities and combinations is not only a lot of fun but is essential for accomplishing certain objectives in the later parts of the game.

Stacking takes place in a pseudo early twentieth century Europe.  We were lead to believe that the game took place in Russia since the characters are Russian stacking dolls but it seems more like an amalgam of various European locales. The graphics have a very brown look to them just like old silent movies did.  The cut scenes are actually done in the silent film style where the characters would move around on screen and then the entire screen would be filled with text of what they were saying.  This was a really nice touch and really gives it that early twentieth century feel.  The graphics are simple but they are effective in setting the whimsical tone of the game.

The music of the game also helps to make you feel like you are in the early 1900s.  The music is all played on piano and it sounds like the kind of music one would hear being played during a silent movie.  There are also some jazzy parts sprinkled into the soundtrack to further help get you into the mindset of the early 1900s.  There is no voice acting but most characters do make noises of some sort whether they be screams, grunts, gasps, sneezes or the aforementioned farts.  The sound design (just like the graphics) is very simple but it fits the game perfectly.

Like most dlc games, Stacking is not very long.  If you just stick to the main quest then you should be able to beat it in around five hours.  You can bump up the game time to around ten hours if you decide to do all of the sidequests. Getting 100% in the game also means getting 100% of the trophies.  Unlike a lot of games though, you will want to get that 100% since the game is so enjoyable.  There is nothing particularly challenging about obtaining everything in the game but it’s about the experience and fun more than it is about challenge.

Stacking is yet another fantastic game from the folks over at Double fine productions.  New, creative and original ideas are extremely hard to come by these days so a game like this is definitely a breath of fresh air.  If you consider yourself a real gamer and are tired of everything else out there then you have to do yourself a favor and buy Stacking.

Liked:

  • Completely original concept and gameplay
  • Hilarious characters and world
  • Early 1900s asthetic

Disliked:

  • Some minor issues with the camera

Stacking was developed by Double fine productions and published by THQ.  It was released on the Playstation network and Xbox live and is available now for $14.99 on PSN (free if you are a Playstation plus subscriber) and 1200 Microsoft points on XBL.  The copy played for this review was a digital copy that was downloaded from the Playstation network.

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