Digital distribution makes sense for a company like Double Fine. Schafer’s ideas are always off the wall, and there’s never been a good track record of guaranteed success for the company. Psychonauts, arguably one of the most brilliant adventure games of its generation, was overlooked by contemporary consumers. The title did nothing for sales, thus doing little for Double Fine as a company.
Digital distribution allows Double Fine to take more risks with development. They can step up to the plate with more creative, off-the-wall titles that probably don’t have quite a high chance of massive commercial success. Costume Quest, released last Halloween, is a great example of a game made by Double Fine that probably did better as a digitally released title than it ever could have as a physical good.
Stacking is the second digital launch by Double Fine. It’s $15 on LIVE and the PSN. PlayStation + subscribers can snag it for free. If you subscribe to PlayStation’s premium service, stop reading this review right now and go pick up the game. You have absolutely no reason to pass on Stacking.
For the rest of you… here we go.
Summed up, Stacking is short, charming, unique and pretty. The art direction here is remarkable. There’s this great mash up of dolls, old-timey fashion and painting happening on the screen at all times. The result is this great, warm, unique environment that’s easily one of the best qualities of this game.
Players take on the role of the smallest doll in a family of Russian nesting dolls. Your siblings have been grabbed up by the evil Baron to perform varying degrees of child slave labor. You set out on a quest to foil the Baron’s jobs and set your siblings free.
These quests are completed by nesting with dolls in the environment. You can only nest with a doll that’s one step up from your current size. So in order to nest with the big dolls, you must hop into each doll sequentially smaller. You’ll be able to use each doll’s unique power (farting, burping, punching, yelling, scanning, shooting, etc.) to either annoy others or complete tasks.
Half the fun of this game is hopping in random dolls just to see what they do. You’ll be rewarded for these random searches with things like hijinx… challenges for specific abilities. The first that comes to mind involves the farting doll and passing gas on old people. That challenge is called "A Blast from the Past." Complete it and the doll gets a gold reward. There are tons of these challenges across each unique stage.
Puzzles are solved by using a doll’s, or several dolls’, abilities to clear an objective. There are multiple solutions to almost every puzzle, and the game rewards you for returning and clearing puzzles in a variety of ways. There’s an open challenge constantly to think as openly as you can in order to complete objectives from all angles. If you’re into it, this can greatly extend the life of this otherwise short title.
The story is charming and delivers a few quips of laughter and brief emotion. While it’s definitely not going to wrap you up and carry you away, you will enjoy it for what it is. There’s no voice acting in this game and the dialogue is handled through silent film style slides; visual interaction and then a title screen of speak written out. It can get boring, and some of the cut scenes happen for too long and too often.
For anyone with $15 and some free time, Stacking is a great purchase. It’s fun, rewarding, unique and downright charming. It’s a relatively short ride, but that’s a tough grudge to hold given the price of entry. Get it, you won’t regret the purchase.