If Brutal Legend and Costume Quest taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected when it comes to Double Fine. Stacking continues this trend by offering visual and game design elements unlike anything else out there.
Presented through a 1920’s silent film aesthetic, the player plays as a tiny Russian wooden doll on a quest to rescue his family from harsh child labor and unsafe work conditions. The story might sound a bit morbid but it is actually filled with humor, including plenty of fart jokes. This lighthearted mood gives the game its flavor and keeps the story and visual charm at the forefront.
The entire game is based around hijacking dolls that are one size bigger than you to solve puzzles; hence the “stacking” element. At its core, Stacking is really a puzzle game as the player will need to figure out which dolls to control at any given time. For example, one of the game’s first objectives is to get inside an invite-only party. The player can either take control of the farting doll to clear out the room, or lure the guard away with a female doll or sneak into the vent system using the mechanic’s ability. Puzzles have multiple ways to be completed and the player is rewarded in finding all of them through Achievement points and unlockables.
Stacking features dozens of dolls that have unique abilities. But the game welcomes the player’s creativity in terms of which doll to hijack. Not only will puzzles be solved and the story progress, but secret goodies can be unlocked when you stack a series of the right pieces together. An example of this is stacking all the members of a separated family together. These side missions are a nice distraction from the main plotline and give the player a good excuse to exercise the abilities of all characters.
From the whole-screen dialog captions, to the broke projector visual style, Stacking’s 1920’s atmosphere is captured well. The environments are large and can feature many characters walking around at one time. Each doll is also created in detail. Needless to say, the game’s 1gb download size might seem large for an XBLA game but the storage space is justified. The game really only takes a few hours to complete but its charm has the most staying power. The $15 might seem initially high but Stacking’s innovation and lighthearted game techniques provide quite the unexpected surprise on XBLA and PSN.
Better Than: you thought it was going to be
Also Try: sticking your fist in your mouth
Wait For It: the next Tim Schafer game
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