February 22, 2011

Double Fine Productions are well-known for their offbeat, quirky humor.  Their latest offering, Stacking, is a departure from the typical adventure genre, with Russian stacking matryoshka dolls serving as the inspiration and basis for everything in the game. One controls Charlie Blackmore, the youngest son in a family of chimney sweeps, as he uses his ability to stack into larger dolls to save his family from an evil baron.  

The game is broken up into a hub world and several stages, each filled to the brim with different scenarios and puzzles. Every doll has a unique ability, from the smallest tap-dancing child doll to giant gentleman with proper uppercuts. Each puzzle can be solved by putting all of these abilities to use, with multiple possible solutions for each scenario. The puzzles are incredibly clever and well-thought out without becoming frustrating, and finding dolls with unique abilities is not hard to do. 

The game has a built-in hint system for each puzzle scenario, which gives you two vague hints before telling you the answer outright. It’s encouraging to solve every puzzle on your own, but it doesn’t penalize you for using the hints. There’s a small timer that prevents you from abusing the system, but it’s not too long before it might be bothersome to wait it out instead of getting frustrated with some of the more vague and abstract puzzles. The multiple solutions and hint system help the game feel accessible, always making progress into the game.

It’s amazing how Double Fine can take a game, center the game’s plot on issues like child labor and the Great Depression and turn them into a humorous story. Stacking is long enough that it feels lengthy without overstaying its welcome, and the puzzles ever feel repetitive. It’s well worth the asking price, and we hope Double Fine sends more games like this our way soon enough.


Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.