After my time getting used to my new career, I have returned to the world of gaming. I beat The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the first time. I further delved into Little Big Planet. I also toyed with other, newer games, and most recently, Stacking.
Stacking is a very simple concept, at least if you are familiar with Russian toys or were simply exposed to your grandmother’s collections of curios. The Matryoshka doll originated in 1890 and grew to be popular collectors’ items in many countries. I personally spent many hours playing with a beautifully painted set that sat on my grandmother’s piano. The dolls are hollow and split horizontally across the middle, which allow smaller dolls to be placed inside. The nested dolls were usually part of a set that either told a story or captured a theme. The story behind Stacking is no different.
We begin with a very long story about the Industrial Revolution and a family that has fallen on hard times. This intro is told in silent film dialogue, and although it is an interesting and rather alarming story of the horrors of child labor, it was a very long and tedious wait for the start of the game. Basically, we find out that the Blackmore family’s father mysteriously disappears, the family runs out of money, and the children are carted off for horrible child labor purposes. Except for little Charlie, the smallest nesting doll in the Blackmore set who is deemed too small. He sets off to find his brothers and sisters.
And you guessed it: you are Charlie. He goes to a train station to find his first sibling. Finally, the neat part begins. The train station has a couple tasks for Charlie to accomplish in order to free his brother. In order to complete the tasks, Charlie nests larger dolls that are better suited to what needs to be done. Each doll has a special function that can either accomplish a task or simply amuse you. Most of the other dolls are very basic dolls that have a simple function such as barking orders, expelling body gases, sipping tea, or playing child games. Some of the dolls are special ones that do specific things to accomplish the tasks in the games. You figure out pretty quickly that these are the ones to pay attention to if you are in the middle of a task and can’t figure out what to do.
Throughout the game you can talk to the other dolls to gain minor information and access your task menu that reminds you of what you are trying to do, shows you the characters you need to find, tells you the number of solutions that are possible for completing the task, and gives you hints if you are really stuck. Some of the hints are useless to you, such as “Talk to people to find out what you need”. Thank you, Stacking, I couldn’t have done it without your help in that respect. But occasionally something useful comes up like a person that can easily help you accomplish what you need.
The tasks themselves are very flexible in that you can use several methods to accomplish them. The very first task is to gain entry to a lounge in the train station that only certain people can access. There is no doll that you can nest that can enter the doors, and the guard proves impossible to nest. The task menu says that there are three possible solutions to this task. You can either locate the maintenance man to take apart an air vent and crawl through as a small doll, nest the overly flatulent man to expel toxic gases into the air vent and clear out the lounge, or seduce the guard and quickly nest him while he is vulnerable. I used the third method to great effect.
The graphics are excellent in that the scenes are bright, clear, and colorful. I experienced no lag or pixilation in any way and found the locations easy to follow and understand. My only complaint is that the silent film style of telling the story, while very intriguing and well done, was too long between scenes.
Overall, I recommend this game for anyone who has a bit of patience to sit through the background story. The game can be beat in a couple hours of devoted play, and it allows for the gamer’s own creativity in problem solving to play through it. It is well-designed and is very easy on the pocketbook. It is well worth the money.