Stacking: Official Review
by Gauss

Basic Information:
Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: THQ
North American Release Date: 2/8/2011
European Release Date: 2/9/2011
Trophies: Yes, 4 | 13

Stacking is a game about matryoshka dolls in an industrializing culture. You follow Charlie Blackmore in an effort to rescue his family from the clutches of the evil baron. At its heart is a puzzle/adventure game that replaces your standard inventory with the ability to stack dolls, thus giving you different abilities.

Stacking is truly a return to glory for Tim Schafer, and its a shame this game will go as un-noticed as it has been. The game is a unique and innovative take on the traditional adventure game, and may mark the return of the genre. Rather than carrying around dozens of items that follow a convoluted logic, there are a series of dolls with unique abilities that are used to solve puzzles in multiple different ways. The challenge, in this regard, comes in finding the appropriate combinations since dolls are "stacked" inside one another.

Got to love the variety in the dolls

The puzzles are presented in the form of "Challenges," the levels have between 3 and 6 of them each with multiple solutions. The puzzles can be solved in various ways and involve using different dolls and their unique abilities to accomplish tasks. The challenges aren't presented in a linear fashion, once you reach a level the entire level is open for exploration and the challenges can be accomplished in any order, but the level can't be beaten until you complete all challenges.

The gameplay can be very difficult too, atleast if you are willing to not use hints. In this regard the game falls into some of the same pitfalls as a typical adventure game: using the same logic as the designer. Often times the problem description you are provided isn't enough to find the right combination of things to do to find the solution. That being said, the game does provide hints, 3 per problem. As each hint is used more and more informaton is provided, to the point where when the 3rd one is used it provides a full description of the solution.

The end result is a puzzle game that never gets frustrating. It's always as difficult as you want it to be.

At the start of the game the Blackmore family is struggling, and the Dad takes a job to put food on the table. After some time the rest of the family goes out to solve the problem and ends up in various states of capture. Leaving his mom behind Charlie, the smallest of the family, goes out to find and rescue the family. From this point forward there are several major locations where each family member is being held, and you have to solve various challenges to rescue each family member. Each challenge has multiple solutions, and hints are always available if you need help.

You carry around dolls by stacking like items in an inventory

The story is simple, and ultimately is very entertaining. The game doesn't have characters in a traditional sense, some of which should be expected in a game like this, but its really the humor that takes center stage in the plot. As a result the game is very much a "pick up and play" scenario, you won't be hankering to continue to play to find out what happens next, but rather to solve that next challenge or just to continue to see the humor unfold. Now don't take that as the story is boring and without character, but the characters are all of singular motivation, and the drama unfolds within the balance of their motivations. Its a very tongue-in-cheek presentation of a stereotypical good guy and a stereotypical bad guy.

Lets look at it objectively though, any game that re-enacts a scene from Call of Duty with matryoshka dolls can't be bad.

Stacking is fairly long for a PSN game, it'll take 6-10 hours to 100% easily. There is loads of side content in the form of hi-jinks and collecting unique dolls, and you will strive to complete the "murals" the hobo, Levi, paints for you at the end of every level.


The universe is one of a kind.

Stacking does a great job of immersing the player in the game. This is a game whose main characters are matryoshka dolls, yet it still manages to create a believeable albeit quirky environment. Its presented in the vein of a "silent" movie, none of the dolls speak, but rather their speech is contained in speech bubbles or in frames during cutscenes.

Each level is well designed and the world is full of life, despite the fact nothing is actually "alive." Its so strange that a small, short game like this can have levels with so much color and variance, while games like Dragon Age II struggle with it.

Stacking is a quick 100%, and honestly a very enjoyable one. The game is unique and the challenges are original, plus there is always a hint if you get stuck. None of the trophies are really a major hang-up.

Closing Thoughts
Stacking is a return to form for Tim Schafer. Its a great PSN title and a must own for any fan of puzzle games or games that are just plain old fun. There is alot of humor here, and the game never takes itself too seriously. Seriously, its 10 bucks... Go buy it.

Gameplay: 8/10
- A great new take on the classic puzzle/adventure game.

Singleplayer: 9/10
- A story thats all about humor. Its a short and sweet example of what makes Tim Schafer great.

Technical: 9/10
- A very well designed game. The levels are laid out well and the environment looks great.

Overall: 8.5/10 Superb