Posted 2 years ago By kingquagmire - David Collins
Can you believe that Stacking is only the fourth title to come out of the Double Fine camp? Seriously. It feels like a lot more, but you really can count the number of releases on a single hand (Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, Costume Quest and now Stacking). Looking at just the first three, each is superbly unique and different in their own way, yet maintains the Double Fine humor that is always ever-present. Stacking continues this pedigree, first in it’s setting and art direction and then through the way Double Fine leveraged that setting as a conduit for their specific brand of funnies.
My first impression of Stacking was one of almost wonderment. I mean, have YOU ever had the opportunity to play a video game staring Russian Matryoshka (Stacking) Dolls? I thought not. Now take those dolls and present their universe through the veil of the silent film era. Oh, and while you are at it, give the backdop some additional personality by using a hodge-podge of everyday items in the construction. For example, a steam ship has cigars for smoke stacks and the decking is made out of Popsicle sticks. Melding all that together created an instant charm that had me hooked right from the title screen.
The story begins with the Blackmore family, poor and very much in debt. Dad leaves for a spanking new job that pays well and will get the family out of their dire straights. After many weeks and no word from him, the family ends up selling their belongings to make ends meet. Eventually, they have nothing left. The Baron (the big-bad in Stacking) shows up and forces the children to work off their debts. All save Charlie, the runt of the litter. Charlie’s small stature is more than made up for in determination though, so he sets off to rescue his kin.
As we have discovered with many games in the past, charm can only go so far. There needs to be more to the package and in the case of Stacking, I have it divided up into two parts: Controls and Puzzle Adventuring. The controls are the weakest of the two. They aren’t bad, per say, though they will take a little getting used to. Left stick moves your doll in any direction with the right stick taking on the camera duties. For some reason, they didn’t quite feel like they were in unison. For me, I had to crank the camera sensitivity just to get close to a comfortable flow. The other buttons allow for stacking within different dolls (these are Stacking Dolls after all), using each doll’s ability, and accessing the very useful menu. In all, the only issues I had were with the sticks and once I made the adjustments, even those issues are negligible after some adaption time.
The adventure/puzzle part stands on its own just fine. Each area of the game is littered with several objectives, usually having something to do with getting special dolls to a certain location. The baseline is the stacking mechanic, as every puzzle can be solved using the dolls’ special abilities such as belching, intimidating, repairing, so on and so forth. For example, In the train station, you’ll need to get the engineers to the platform to address a labor strike, while on the zeppelin, you’ll need to get all the ambassador dolls into a meeting so they can put an end to child labor altogether. The trick is finding what will set these dolls into action. In the case of the engineers, they are hanging out in an upper class lounge. So the only way to get them out is to force the lounge to close. I won’t spoil how to do that, but just as it is with every objective in the game, there are multiple solutions to be had. The first successful answer you find will allow the story to progress, but half the fun in any game like this is trying to find EVERY solution. And doing so can be quite a challenge, to say the least. The answers aren’t always obvious and often will require multiple steps to complete.
Additional, secondary objective based on the doll’s abilities, called hi jinks, can also be completed. While they don’t do anything for the story, they do add another layer for the completionists out there to deal with. These range from uppercutting people to farting on them. Yes, you read that correctly. This is a Double Fine title, so the sophomoric humor is in full force here. And again, as this is a Double Fine title, the humor works very well with funny scriptwork and of course the odd doll hi jinks.
As I sat back and thought about my first experience playing with virtual stacking dolls, it took me a bit to figure out how exactly to describe it. It sits well within its genre, yet is unique enough that you can’t really compare it to anything else. I like to think of it as this year’s Toy Soldiers, just based on the aesthetic alone. But that doesn’t even come close to describing it. Will you like it? If you are a fan of the adventure/puzzle genre, you certainly will. If not, then give the demo a shot. The charm may be just enough to draw you in for a full purchase.
+ Double Fine humor
+ Multiple solutions
- Incentives for secondary objectives could be a bit more...incentifying
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Release Date : 2011/02/09
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : THQ
Developer : Double Fine
Category : Adventure
ESRB : E10+
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