Part puzzle, part point and click adventure in a sense, Stacking has the player literally “stacking” and “unstacking” Russian dolls…wait come back it’s really quite a charismatic, addictive little game! You play as chimney sweep Charlie, a member of a family in trouble who become enslaved by an evil baron and it’s left to Charlie to rescue them all, and many other dolls. This is done via stacking Charlie into incrementally increasing sized dolls, whom all possess a special ability, from bears that growl to disrupt audiences, to needing to stack into several dolls to cause more of a fire than a small spark (I must be careful not to spoil things.)
Overall the idea is simple, solve the puzzles utilising several dolls abilities to progress the story, and in this case, the story is a good one. In addition, the art style in this game is beautiful and possibly the most unique in any game I have seen, the dolls do not speak, the game is set in a silent film world, in what looks like the 1920s, telling the story through title cards and unvoiced dialogue. The tapping of typewriters and clattering of projectors really adds to the unique qualities of this game. The soundtrack of tinkling pianos and violins is beautifully emotive, and the sound effects for specific dolls are excellent, and at times hilarious.
Puzzles can be solved multiple ways to keep you coming back, and add variety to the mechanic, and each level has a list of hi-jinks, which are actions that don’t need to be completed to advance through the story, but that do result in new rewards at your hideout. There are sets of dolls to find, either particular families, or dolls with similar abilities, and when you successfully stack into them all, you are rewarded with a mini-drama.
In one word I would describe this game as whimsical, and I’m racking my brain for another game I could use that word on and cannot find one. The only let down for me was the camera which was a little ropey at times, and very often didn’t pan out enough for me to enjoy the scenes for what they were, beautifully crafted, sepia toned set pieces. I genuinely got lost in the world and happily whiled away several hours at a time solving puzzles, completing side quests and marveling at the quaintness of everything.
I’m aware this sounds a little odd to the role player and shooter fans amongst you, but since there’s a free trial of the game on the UK PSN store (I can’t speak for XBLA and other regions) you have nothing to lose in checking it out, trust me on one thing though, it’s really quite different from the usual puzzle games or casual gamer type creations on the Wii.
|Gameplay||10/10||Addictive, simple effective controls and a hint system should you need help.|
|Graphics||8/10||Beautiful but not much to challenge the system so it’s a couple of points short of perfect.|
|Sound||10/10||Sound effects are great and background ambient noises really stand out in the game.|
|Music||8/10||Piano and string prettiness, I just wish there was more variety.|
|Story||9/10||For a downloadable game, the story is a good sizable chunk.|
|Originality||10/10||There really is nothing else like Stacking.|
|Trophies||10/10||Challenging but not infuriating, awards the completionist in us all.|
|Art Style||10/10||The game looks so unique, and dolls are beautifully rendered.|
|Value for money||9/10||Pricier than some downloads on the store, but definitely worth the asking sum.|
|Difficulty||7/10||Completing the game to see the story play out is reasonably straight forward, finding all solutions is however, very challenging.|
Total Score: 91%
Let me know what you think, and suggest any games like it, in the comments below.