Stacking Preview: Tim Schafer's Russian Doll SituationBy Christopher Monfette - Posted Dec 23, 2010
From the twisted minds of the folks over at Tim Schaffer’s carnival-esque playhouse, Double Fine, comes Stacking, a visually inventive, action-puzzle title featuring, of all things, Russian dolls…Yes, take a moment to ponder that, as you play as Charlie Blackmore, the youngest son in a very large family of such stackable figures, each of them chimney sweeps by profession. But when your family is kidnapped and pressed into labor by the Baron, a kind of pre-union industrialist, you must embark on a quest to rescue your family and lead a revolution.
The aesthetic of the game is its most notable selling point. Aside from the fact that you play as an adorable doll, hopping along and leaping into the body of other dolls, the entire game is painted as an homage to 1930’s silent cinema. Each of the cut-scenes look like something culled from a Charlie Chaplin film, complete with insert-cards for the dialogue. The Victorian-style costumes and period décor couple perfectly with the grainy, film-like quality of the image to present something cute and cartoony and utterly original.
You’ll begin your journey in a bustling train station, an environment which will serve as your main hub for the majority of the game. You’ll travel to a number of unique locations from there – including a massive steamship oceanliner – and return to find new travelers with new sets of problems that’ll propel you back and forth between new and old levels. Additionally, there’s a secret, private area of the station that will serve as your own personal home. All your collectibles, items and advancements will be reflected there as your home is upgraded throughout the adventure.
WATCH: The First Stacking Trailer
You’ll navigate your way through the title by hijacking -- i.e. "stacking into" -- other dolls of various sizes and utilizing their individual skills to help you access new areas. There are more than 100 doll types in the game, all of which have an individual skill, some useful, some funny, and some both. Skills include things like shouting, distracting, unlocking doors, flying with the aid of pelican-dolls and, of course, farting…Which, by the way, is actually a useful skill if you’re looking to clear an area quickly. Dolls stack by size, so if you need the ability of a larger doll, you’ll need to control all the sizes in-between, so think strategically when walking around each level.
It’s essentially your job to cause as much chaos as possible and each objective has a number of solutions, ranging from easy to difficult. There are bigger and better rewards depending upon the solution (or solutions) you enact, and solving a puzzle never eliminates the criteria to try it again. So if you find yourself wanting to discover all four or five solutions to a particular problem, you can do so without starting over or replying the game. Master each solution to every challenge to collect the maximum amount of bonuses and unlockables.
Much like Costume Quest before it, Double Fine’s Stacking is a visually unique, endlessly appealing and truly humorous title that also happens to feature first-rate, innovative gameplay. As a downloadable title, this adventure game is bound to be one of you favorites of next year.