Developer: Double Fine
Xbox Live Arcade, and the PlayStation Network are home to some of the most innovative, and interesting ideas in gaming today, and Tim Schafer’s Stacking is definitely one that falls into those camps. Players take the role of the smallest of a family of Russian dolls. The opening sequences of the game show his brothers and sisters being taken away to work as slaves. Not happy to just let this happen, our protagonist then sets off on an adventure to bring his siblings home.
Stylistically, the game is set out like an old movie. In cut scenes, there is no voice acting, and a grainy sepia type filter is placed over the action with the classic piano accompaniment that you would expect to hear with a movie before sounds were added. During key moments, subtitles are used to portray information, but Stacking does appear to try and keep these to a minimum.
Just like the main character, each of the world’s inhabitants are Russian dolls, it’s from this that the games main feature blooms. The world is split up into a series of challenge areas, with a puzzle blocking the player’s progression to the next area. To solve each section, the player must take control of the characters around him by jumping inside them. In doing this the player then gains the ability of each characters special manoeuvre whilst in control, and it’s up to the player to figure out how the moves can help them progress. Sounds easy right? Not always. Literally brimming with dolls, not all of them are necessarily important or useful in your progression and may be just a ruse. To increase the difficulty that bit further, it is only possible to jump inside a doll one size above either your own, or above the doll you are controlling. Carrying out these challenges, and puzzles make up the main body of the game, meaning that there are none of the classic running around causing destruction that has become so popular in games today. There is of course a certain amount of breaking things, but it’s always done in a manner that feels fresh.
Thankfully, Stacking doesn’t merely rely on this mechanic to get by, it’s also quite funny, and although at times the game deals with serious subjects, the developers have always done it in a light hearted way. There are times that the humour seems to be more targeted at a younger audience, which is an odd decision since the game is unlikely to attract the younger demographic.
The art style while fun and interesting, the fact that the only controllable characters are Russian dolls with no legs, results in the large maps travelling around can become tiresome. These times are rare though, and will cause only a slight annoyance. Stacking is also quite short, only about 4-6 hours long, depending on how much time you spend looking around, but in all honesty, that’s about right. The game although fun, would have only suffered had it been any longer. Any more time in the world and it is likely that players would have become bored. With this in mind, that doesn’t mean there’s no replay value in the game. Players can look back over their progress, and see which dolls they haven’t controlled, creating an interesting take on the item collection mechanic. There are also varying ways to complete most of the challenges, meaning that players can finish the game, go away then come back and complete the game again in a completely different way.
Stacking is a lot of fun. It’s fresh, interesting, funny (Sometimes) and definitely Tim Schafer at his best. There are a few problems that tarnish the experience a little though, and the game can easily become boring after a while. Even with that in mind, players looking for something to play should certainly take a look.
|Graphics:Simple, yet stylised and pretty.||7/10|
|Gameplay:Fresh and interesting. Being able to complete puzzles in multiple ways is refreshing.||7/10|
|Story:Basic, but it does its job in that it provides a means to link the challenge rooms together.||5/10|
|Replayability:Being able to complete each puzzle in different ways makes the game very replayable.||7/10|
|Overall:A good fun little game. Should definitely be at least looked at by everyone.||7.5/10Good|