Stacking Review

WADE MANNS – The Corsair


By Double Fine

Genre: third-person puzzle/action?

Double Fine has a history of releasing games that are really fun but have some pretty weird concepts. The company, founded by former graphic adventure genius Tim Schafer, has been the launching ground for underdog titles that never seemed to get past the first installment, despite how critically acclaimed they were. Games like Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, Costume Quest, and now this latest offering, Stacking, are really good, but it seems they’re not advertised well enough to justify a sequel.

As little Charlie Blackmore, the smallest Matryoshka (or Russian nesting doll) in existence, you are given the responsibility of rescuing your brothers, all of whom have been kidnapped by the evil Baron and forced into servitude. But what can a little wooden doll do? Well, plenty, it turns out: he can stack inside increasingly larger dolls to accomplish tasks that he couldn’t ordinarily do.

For example, he could stack inside a generic passer-by doll then into a larger one who happens to have a key to open a gate. Or, in order to clear out a room full of stuffy obstructive types (there’s also a bit of class warfare in this game, which fits surprisingly well), you can send a particularly flatulent doll to stand by an intake fan that goes into the room, and watch the sparks fly.

Furthermore, finding four of a specific set of doll in each level (ranging from just bigger than Charlie to about five feet tall!) will give a special cutscene which advances the storyline. You may also cause certain Hi-jinks to occur within each level, which may seem to be emergent gaming but for the fact that the developers, crazy and backwards as these fun little activities are, intended them to happen.

Later in the game you may find that certain combinations of dolls have special effects that are required to solve certain puzzles. All puzzles in the game, by the way, are reset upon completion, allowing you to find more solutions, and indeed there are achievements/trophies that reward such dedication.

If you’re looking for an excellent, pick-up-and-play misadventure with a cute aesthetic, you can’t really go wrong with Stacking. Technically, the graphics are great but not spectacular and the sound can get a bit annoying after a while, but the pure charm of the game will keep you sticking to it. I give this one four out of five stars.