A wondrous adventure awaits!
It seems that Double Fine studios have a habit of making unique gameplay experiences; their track record ofPsychonauts, Brutal Legend and Costume Quest have all been terribly funny, extremely charming and more importantly different from most games available. Their newest title Stacking possesses the same qualities that Double Fine are renowned for, making it instantly stand out amongst a crowd, win a place in your heart and deliver a heartwarming experience.
What Stacking Got Right
Great story and setting - The story is told using silent movie-style title cards; the Blackmore family have been forced into child slavery and it's up the smallest doll Charlie to save his family and the rest of the children from the evil Baron. For a game that is so heartwarming the subject matter is rather depressing, but thanks to the witty dialogue and fun filled presentation it all balances out very nicely. It's unique and full of comedy, pop culture throwbacks and creates a rather compelling atmosphere.
Interesting gameplay mechanics - Players are given an objective and then it is up to you to explore the game world to figure out how to solve the puzzle. By talking to other dolls you will learn a little more about them and the environment that surrounds you. Each doll has a unique special ability; some more impressive and important than others but each one is fun to explore. To use their special ability you need to stack inside them. Charlie is a rather small doll so in order to stack into the biggest doll you will need to stack into a bigger doll before stacking into the biggest. Dolls come in four sizes so it's important to take note of who you are stacking into and who you need to stack into next.
Challenges and exploration encouraged - The puzzle difficulty isn't too taxing, but there is a nice hint system if you need a hand. Most of the main puzzles are easily dealt with but some of the challenges can be quite tricky. The abilities of the various dolls come into play to create some very wacky situations and it is this kind of fun gameplay that makes Stackingso charming.
Free DLC - Much in the same vein as Costume Quest, Double Fine has included the DLC for Stacking in the PC release, meaning that PC gamers get even more game time for their hard earned dollars.
What Stacking Got Wrong
FOV issues - Despite the fact that Double Fine have pledged to fix this issue, it is worth noting that the game currently has some messed up Field of View issues thanks to the console port. It doesn't break the game at all, but for those hardcore PC gamers out there, you know how frustrating this issue can be.
The Final Verdict
Stacking is a heartwarming adventure that offers something different. The story is well told, despite being a little depressive in nature, and the world is simply alive with magic and wonder. If you're sick of playing shooters 24/7, or you're a fan of Tim Schafer's work, then you'll want to pick this up right away.
By Stephen Heller