Stacking is a funny little game released this past February for XBox and Playstation’s live networks. I’ve delayed on posting it for the past month or so, as I played the game through and really examined it for gameplay and aesthetics. I was pleasantly surprised by all aspects of the game: it’s simple, it’s fun, and it’s more complex than you would imagine.
The game has two things going for it: the story and the style. The story follows the Blackmore family, a working class family during the Industrial Revolution. The family (namely, the children) are kidnapped and enslaved to work in coal mines by the evil Baron, who is propagating a child labor scheme. However, little Charlie Blackmore–the smallest of the Blackmores–was untouched by the Baron due to his small size. Now, Charlie has to fight for his family!!
Good, right? I mean, it’s okay. The glory of the story is that it lends itself perfectly to the style of gameplay, which is what makes Stacking so genius: every character is a Matryoshka (“Russian Nesting”) doll! Charlie, the smallest nesting doll, has to maneuver his way into bigger dolls to become the person and take on their talents, which are used to dupe others, open doors (literally and figuratively), and solve challenges. Each person (or doll?) has a unique talent, be it the ability to seduce men, punch people in the face, blast their obscene flatulence, or even cry loudly. All of these characters are used at one point or another to advance the game and, when you defeat the game, can be used to annoy the other characters (via the dolls “Hi-Jinks.” a character’s traits being used to engage or enrage other characters).
Aesthetically, Double Fine–the production company behind the game–paid great attention to paint the world and story inside of a “silent movie” type of world. All of the story telling moments are done through old film reels with piano playing. All dialogue is written on cards, a la silent film. The only problem with this great motif is that it can sometimes take FOREVERRRRR to get through a storytelling moment. Regardless, it is a great device.
Furthermore, Double Fine did a great job of creating the world the characters live in. Because nesting dolls are only–I don’t know–five inches tall at their biggest, the world around them is composed out of repurposing common household items into proportional environmental decor. An example: a chandelier in the game is made of out illuminated pasta noodles. Little items like this proliferate the game, catching your eye whenever you enter a new room.
Stacking is a fun game that I definitely implore you to check out if you have an XBox or Playstation. It’s fun, it’s quirky, and it’s definitely one of the best games–if not the best–of the first quarter of 2K11.