Developer: Double Fine Productions
Release Date: 3/6/2012
Rating: Everyone 10+
For Fans Of: Matryoshka Dolls, Child Labor, Silent Films
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The Good: Charming visuals and story, stacking dolls is unique, multiple solutions to puzzles is fine to figure out, hi-jinks and challenges for completists
The Bad: No map, no reward for doing side missions, can be beaten in a short few hours, figuring out the puzzles can be a real pain
Double Fine Productions is known for very original and unique games (Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, Costume Quest) but has a hard time creating them, it seems. Stacking is a small Matryoshka doll named Charlie Blackmore who goes on a quest to stop child labor and stop the evil Baron from enslaving children for his selfish needs. In the process, he is saving his family members who are trapped. The game is very charming visually and appeals to all audiences.
The main gameplay in Stacking consists of you stacking inside dolls that are bigger than you and solving puzzles. There are areas that have someone blocking something, or something needs to be triggered, and you have to find the right doll to do this. You get three clues to help you along the which is a lifesaver because otherwise, it would be very difficult to know what to do. There are so many dolls that stacking each one would take forever. One puzzle involved finding a way to a cell that is holding a doll. The man is a doctor, so you have to find ways to make him feel ill. Stack into a doll blowing air and then a fire chief. Spray him with water then unstack and blow air on him to make him sick. This is just one of multiple solutions. Each area has several ways to solve puzzles, and finding them all will unlock stuff in your hub, but it’s nothing useful.
You can also complete hi-jink challenges which are where you use dolls abilities a certain amount of times. You can also complete challenges which are like side missions where you are helping dolls out. I found these pretty boring and is really for only people who just want to mess around. There is really no reward for completing the game 100%, but if you love the stacking gameplay a lot go for it. If you get lost the game there is a guide line, thankfully, because like I mentioned above you will get lost. There isn’t a map either, so identifying dolls and take forever and get boring. This is a big problem with challenges because there is no way to know who you stacked or who you should stack. This is only half the problem because then you need to know what to do with their ability.
The story is charming and so is the visuals. Cut scenes are played out like old silent films, and the game has a satisfying ending (remember Double Fine doesn’t do sequels). The controls work just fine, and mechanics are simple, but the execution has problems from what I explained. The game itself can be beaten in just a few hours if you only find one solution for each area and skip everything else. Only completists will want to bother doing this. For the low price you get a very unique game, but if you can’t look past these problems then you won’t enjoy it.