I have a friend who likes to tell me that there are no new ideas in the world. Everything I could think of has been done and said before. It's a pessimistic attitude for sure, but he's stood by it for at least the decade I've known him. He laments that every movie plot, song lyric and book idea has been done already, so he doesn't even bother trying. I'm curious to show him Stacking, the brand new game from Double Fine. Because I guarantee he's never seen a game in which players use Russian stacking dolls to solve puzzles and save the day.
Stacking is yet another bizarre (albeit ingenious) idea from Double Fine, the people who brought us Costume Quest
, Brutal Legend
and Pyschonauts. It tells a story of a world full of stacking dolls in the turn of the 20th century. The presentation is one of a silent film, calling back to an era all but forgotten in modern video games (with the possible exception of Red Dead Redemption). It's a very specific style that may drive some gamers up the wall, but I quickly discovered that I couldn't get enough of this unrelentingly creative world.
You play young Charlie Blackmore, the youngest in a family of chimneysweeps. One day disaster befalls the Blackmore family, and Charlie's siblings and father are kidnapped by an evil industrialist named The Baron. Before long Charlie is out searching the world for the rest of his family, hoping to bring everybody together and save the day.
While young Charlie isn't very intimidating, he does have an ace up his sleeve. It turns out that Charlie can sneak up behind other dolls and take over their personality by stacking themselves inside. Unfortunately there's a limitation to his plan. Charlie can only stack himself in a character one size larger than him. To solve the puzzles he will need to continue to stack increasingly bigger dolls in order to get to the desired character.
Each of the dolls in Stacking has their own unique personality traits. Players aren't able to jump or perform any fancy moves (unless you count stacking, unstacking and talking to your surroundings "fancy"), but everybody does have a unique action tied to their personality. For example, the little girl doll will tap dance, another doll will have a sugar rush and a mummified doll will help Charlie wrap other characters up in bandages. And that's just scratching the surface. It's fun to watch how the other characters react to you having a sugar high or belching right in their face.
The puzzles come straight out of traditional graphic adventure games (Sam & Max, Secret of Monkey Island, etc.). You're given a problem to overcome and it's up to you to find the correct doll for the job, use their special ability and complete the puzzle. What sets this game apart is that it rewards you for finding several solutions to the same puzzle. That means that once you've completed a puzzle, you can turn back around and solve it a brand new way using a different solution.
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