Double Fine, the very same developing studio that came up with Psychonauts and Brutal Legends, has now come up with a new, and rather innovative, puzzle game that’s guaranteed to make you feel like a chimp with alphabet blocks when you’re solving them, and like Stephen Hawking once you do!
The hero in the game, Charlie Blackmore, is the smallest in a poor family of Matryoshka dolls. This lovely family is torn apart when an evil Baron forces all of Charlie’s siblings into forced labor. The kids have to serve the Baron by shoveling coal and polishing chimneys on a cruise ship. The aim of the game is pretty simple; Charlie has to save his siblings for that happily-ever-after ending. Do you think you can help little Charlie?
While Charlie might be really tiny, he has the ability to sneak up behind another doll and slip into it, as long as the doll isn’t more than two sizes bigger than him. When he does this, Charlie acquires the special abilities and behavioral characteristics of the doll he takes over. As a violinist, he will play the violin, as a boxer, he strikes, and as an old lady he’ll grumble till you get annoyed and decide to find a new host! Using this ability, you have to help Charlie through his many trials and tribulations, so he can get to his siblings and subsequently save his family.
Each of the four major locations in the game involves a quest to free one of Charlie’s brothers or sisters. This is done by moving the four famous adventurers on the cruise ship to mutiny against the despotic captain. How you do that is completely in your hands, as each puzzle has about three to five unique solutions any of which will lead to the rescue of said sibling.
In addition to following the story-line and solving the puzzles leading to his family, there are a few other tasks that add humor to the game making it a lot of fun to play. Not saying that the regular puzzles aren’t fun, but these tasks are just something else! There is also a Charlie figure-set in each scene which you have to complete.
In spite of the amazing contribution of these additional tasks to the game’s playtime, the good news is that it doesn’t contribute to the outcome of the game. So for those really busy people who cannot invest a lot of time into games, you don’t have to worry about these extra tasks! They have even less significance to the outcome of the game than Skyrim’s side-quests!
Stacking is actually a relatively short game, which lasts for about 3 hours. People who want to enjoy the game to its fullest should be busy for about 6 hours, but certainly not more than that. That’s not too long for a downloadable game, is it?
Another unique feature about Stacking is its graphic style. There is no significant character animation (of course, how much can you animate Matryoshka dolls?) and facial expressions need to be noticed in order to fully understand the emotions of the characters in the game. Adding to the beauty of the gameplay is the really appropriate chamber-style music that dominates the playtime of the game. The craft-style acting in the game is also very well done and gives more personality to the characters (especially Charlie) even though they are just dolls.
Cut-scene sequences in the game are of the style of silent movies, complete with the subtitles and the flickering. The only problem though, is that the linguistic output of the more bizarre characters is left to the imagination of the player. You can take my word for it; if you’re too lazy to read, then you might not like Stacking at all! But for those of you who like unusual game concepts and a different kind of humor, it’s about time you get stacking dolls on your computer!
Stacking is not a game that doesn’t have flaws; especially since they could have minimized the antics of the story-line and concentrated on building more major riddles. But the idea with the Matryoshka dolls can be summarized in just one word: legendary. The graphical implementation in the game is nothing short of stylish at any given second. The chamber music is unusually good too. The bottom line remains the same as it has always been with games that have come out of the developing studios at Double Fine Productions- something special that definitely deserves our attention.