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Stacking (XBLA) Review
Posted by Adam Larck on 02.13.2011





Title: Stacking
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Double Fine
Genre: Puzzle
Players: 1
Rated: E 10+ for Everyone ages 10 and up


I honestly think that Double Fine has something against adults. Costume Quest, their first downloadable game, had kids going around beating up teens with adults not helping at all.

Now comes Stacking a game that has the main character, Charlie Blackmore, controlling adults to complete quests because they can't do it alone. Blackmore has to do this in various stages to rescue his family members from the Baron that wants to use children for labor.

However, Charlie has one problem, he's the smallest of all the Russian nesting dolls in the world. To make up for it, though, he has a unique ability: he can hop into other dolls to use their abilities.

There is a catch. He can only hop into a doll one size bigger than him. That means that to get to the biggest size dolls, you have to stack three other dolls to get to them. The biggest doll is not always needed, as some of the other dolls have unique abilities to make up for their size.

The abilities range from seducing, to unlocking doors, to spraying water, creating flatulence and more. All of these abilities can be used and mixed together to solve various puzzles in each world.

There are four worlds in all, each having at least three puzzles in them, with a couple of puzzles thrown in at the final showdown as well. The puzzles have a lot of variety, such as shutting a safari down, breaking into a club, stopping a race and more.

The best things about these puzzles aren't the type there are, but how many ways there are to solve them. In fact, the game encourages you to find all the different ways to solve them, and keeps track of which solutions you've done.

If you do get stuck trying to find a puzzle, you can hit the RB to have the game show a path towards the next puzzle. You can also hit Back to look at hints for puzzles to see what you need to do to complete them. The basic solutions don't really take any hints, but some of the later solutions for a puzzle sometimes needs a bit of pointing to go in the right direction.

One thing I want to make a quick comment on is the ending. I'm not going to spoil anything, but it's fairly humorous and an interesting puzzle to end on. I also think the explosion was added to the game just for it to have an explosion.

If you go straight through the game just to beat it, it will only take you about three hours. What gives the game extra replay ability is finding all the solutions, along with finding the unique dolls and hi-jinx. The dolls look different from the rest, and actually have a bit of a shimmer to them as well.

The hi-jinx, on the other hand, range quite a bit in what you have to do. There are usually around 10 per level, and having you doing random things like farting on people, hitting them, stacking certain dolls and more. Doing these get all types of dolls used in the hi-jinx something gold to wear, like a gold punching glove or a gold judge's wig.

I already explained what doing the hi-jinx get you, but completing each of the other things mentioned above get you extras back at your hideout as well. Completing a world gets you a huge mural, with every unique doll you find being placed there to be shown off, and every solution completed giving a puzzle piece to make a smaller work of art about the puzzle. It's small things that are interesting to glance at for a second, but nothing amazing to really add to the game.

As with every other Double Fine game, they've done humor in the game well. Considering the game has undertones of child labor, it's not in poor taste, and won't make you bust out laughing. It's the kind of humor that will make you smile, or chuckle a bit as your going through the game.

The dolls in the game all look great, as do each of the different areas. The areas never look repetitive while progressing through the game, and you can tell that a lot of detail has been put into each of the dolls. The music in the game is also well done. There's no speaking, as the game uses text boxes, but the music helps tie the mood together and progress the game.

Pros

  • Really innovative idea.
  • Abilities are interesting to see.
  • Multiple ways to solve puzzles makes it pay to be creative.

    Cons

  • Game only takes a few hours to beat, with a few more hours to do all different solutions.
  • Sometimes is a challenge to find doll of next size to go into.
  • Lot of same dolls keep appearing in each level.

    The 411:

    If you're looking for some short puzzle fun, Stacking will be right up your alley. The puzzles are challenging, yet don't overstay their welcome before advancing the game. Some puzzles can be solved in seconds, while other solutions may have you scratching your head thinking for a bit. The game should definitely be checked out, if only to see how a game about Russian nesting dolls can be so good.



    Graphics8.0The dolls all have unique feels, as do all the areas. Great job by the graphic artists making the dolls as detailed as possible. 
    Gameplay9.0Such a unique gameplay element worked great for the game, and really challenges you to find new ways to beat the puzzles. 
    Sound8.0The music really fits the various moods through the game, and never got tired of being listened to as I tried to solve puzzles. 
    Lasting Appeal7.0The game will take about three hours to beat. Even though there are quite a few unique dolls to find and solutions, they will probably only take about another three hours tops. 
    Fun Factor 9.0Going through trying to figure out all the solutions was a lot of fun, and the game has enough humor to not be over the top, yet still be funny. 
    Overall8.2   [ Very Good ]  legend





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