The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
With releases like Brütal Legend and Costume Quest, Double Fine has
cemented its reputation as a go-to developer for unique gaming
experiences, even if the company's offerings don't always find an
audience. Stacking may be Double Fine's most niche concept to date, but
it's hard to imagine a player who wouldn't enjoy the game's clever
puzzles and charming story.
You play as Charlie Blackmore, the
innermost doll and youngest child of the Blackmore family, a Russian
matryoshka set. After his siblings are kidnapped and forced into child
labor by the evil Baron, it's up to Charlie to track them down and free
them. Luckily, Charlie has the ability to hop inside larger dolls, each
of which has a special ability. Some of these abilities are purely for
entertainment, but many are vital to progressing through each level.
this novel mechanic, the core gameplay of Stacking is the same as any
good adventure game: creatively solving unique and humorous puzzles.
Each level contains several challenges Charlie must overcome, which in
turn have several unique solutions. Upon completion, a puzzle will
instantly reset, allowing you to try it again without having to reload a
save. This ingenious mechanic solves one of the most common problems
with the genre: searching for an off-the-wall solution that only makes
sense to the developer. Instead, virtually everyone will be able to come
up with at least one solution (such as using a mechanic to open a
traversable ventilation duct) and continue with the story, but dedicated
gamers can wrack their brains for more obscure solutions (such as
farting into said vent to clear out the adjoining room). An optional
time-based hint system reduces the puzzle-based frustration to nearly
The Baron's evil traps aren't the only
problems you have to overcome. Your character is about as responsive as
you would expect a wooden doll to be, and his sluggish pace is annoying,
especially on levels that require a lot of backtracking. Camera issues
emerge in close quarters, and can make targeting dolls next to walls a
The sense of progression also falters; while you unlock the
ability to stack with larger dolls as you continue, it doesn't add much
to the gameplay. The biggest changeup is the ability to combine
characters' powers. This leads to some great puzzles, but this mechanic
shows up too late in the game and isn't used enough. A few side
objectives such as finding complete doll sets or performing mischievous
acts add length to the gameplay, but there's not much payoff for
completing them beyond unlocking models at your secret base. Thanks to a
little eleventh hour variety, Stacking ends on a high note, but the
rest of the game could have used more gameplay twists like those
introduced in the final scenes.
Aside from creative puzzles, a
good adventure game needs an engaging story, which in Stacking's case is
simple, yet charming. Despite only the most primitive of animations
(most dolls can only move at their midsection) the characters are
memorable, and the Blackmore family is positively endearing. Humor plays
an equally important role, and Stacking delivers in this regard as
well. Most of the laughs are pretty adolescent, with no shortage of
dolls that feature farting as their special ability (with a surprising
variety of sounds). If you're too stuffy for this breed of humor, you
can expect more sophisticated laughs as well. The Great Depression and
child labor are two topics that might not instantly spring to mind when
it comes to comedy, but Double Fine uses them to great effect.
is a bit rough around the edges, but the puzzles are clever, the humor
hits the mark more than it misses, and the characters and story are
delightful, leaving adventure fans with little more to ask for.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.