At first glance, Stacking looks like a very peculiar game. The concept of running around hopping in and out of dolls may not sound appealing, but you’d be surprised just how much fun it is. Having played around with the game a few weeks back, I sat down with it again this week for a proper run through, and found myself falling in love with it all over again.
Staking revolves around the concept of the Russian Matryoshka, or nesting doll. You play as little (and I mean little) Charlie Blackmore, the smallest doll in the town. The story goes that your siblings are being held captive by an evil industrialist, and so you set off to rescue and bring them home. There are hundreds of other dolls of different sizes that popular each level, with each one possessing a unique ability or talent. If you move behind a doll that is exactly one size larger, you can stack into it and take control. Knowing which doll to use is crucial to solving the game’s many puzzles, and the joy is that every puzzle can have multiple solutions – you’ll often be tempted to find all the possible solutions before moving on, and the game’s occasional hints make this task a bit easier. The dolls’ abilities are varied, with some of them being crucial to your progress in the level. For example, one doll has the ‘Eagle Eye’ ability, which will scan the surrounding dolls and mark out which ones are useful for particular missions. Other abilities such as ‘Rancid belch’ may offer a host of giggles, but is also useful for dispersing crowds.
One of the reasons that Stacking plays so well is that it’s delightfully simple to play with. There’s no complicated buttons, the levels are large and free to explore, the characters are designed beautifully, and it all just blends together into one adorable game. What also helps the game along is the presentation – the dolls themselves are painted beautifully and with great detail, and even though they don’t emote they still manage to let their personalities come through. The presentation is also what drives the game forward – there is no voiceacting or complex cutscenes to move the story along. Instead, key moments are played out in short mini-skits, complete with makeshift backdrops and giant cards with the dialogue written on them. It’s a cute gimmick that ties in well with the overall look and feel to the game. The game’s soundtrack also plays a key role, reminiscent of wind-up music boxes filled with gentle string instruments.
The game will reward you each time you locate a ‘family’ of dolls – these are dolls that all belong to the same set, and collecting all of them usually unlocks a reward or will play a hilarious cutscene involving the dolls. You also get rewards for stacking with unique dolls that are scattered through the levels, as well as for completing various challenges. It’s quite straightforward to obtain most of the rewards, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be racking them up.
While Stacking may not need a lot of time to play through there is still a lot to see and do in each level, and interacting with each of the dolls is always fun. Give the game a spin if you’re looking for a game to just veg out to and enjoy for a couple of hours – you certainly won’t be disappointed.