Published on February 17th, 2011 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Price:1200 MS Points, U.S. 14.99 on the PlayStation Network
Release Date: February 9, 2011-Xbox360, February 20th-PlayStation3
Platform: Xbox LIVE Arcade, PlayStation Network
Charlie Blackmore is the smallest sociopath that you will ever meet. Charlie Blackmore does not let people stack in him, he stacks in other people. This is a journey into the world of stack-able dolls and the discovery of a unique blend of puzzler/adventurer. Whether it’s the characters in the game that Charlie Blackmore can stack inside and become, or the fact that you can literally “toot” and “toss your cookies” with a single button press, Stacking has made a unique introduction on to the Xbox LIVE Arcade. The 1930s themed title from Double Fine Productions takes us into the lives of tiny matryoshka dolls, but delivers a genuine puzzler, inside of an adventurer, stacked inside a great XBLA experience.
Charlie Blackmore is a young chap looking to release his family members from the grave dangers and grasp of the Baron’s child labor endeavors. The concept behind the game immediately triggered my curiosity and I had to know exactly what “Stacking” was all about. Jump into other characters and discover unique abilities that will guide you through puzzles and leave you continuously discovering new areas. Also, the game does strive for a non-linear experience by giving you varying paths on how exactly to solve each puzzle. Use your wooden noggin to complete the task different ways. Not to mention the bonus discoveries that are littered in each area you visit give the game some major replay value.
“Hi-Jinks” allow players to utilize the different abilities, like slapping, belching, or seduction (yes, seduction) to just name a few. These will help you to uncover and complete challenges, while having fun discovering new talents. Well, if you call having an upset stomach and releasing some major pressure “talent,” call me Susan Boyle.
Something else that you will discover about the game is its art style. As the game continues, so does the amount of noticeable detail that was included. The Tim Schafer touch can definitely be seen in the design and feel of the game. Character animations and abilities are a direct reflection of the game itself. There was a one scene in particular (similar to the image in the screens) where a cloud of flowers were flooded into the air, creating a mist of colors and cloud. The frame rate did not suffer one bit, nor did the detail, while the flowers rushed into the air like a damp fog. From vignettes that are laced with the theme of the era, or the textures of waves off in the distance rolling along with the movement of the scene, the game was treated with quality with quantity still in mind.
Another noticeable quality of the game is the sense of scale. When hopping into larger dolls, or reducing your size down to Charlie, the camera angle changes, going from a high up advantage, down to ground level view. This is something that did not necessarily “have” to be done, but tied well with the aesthetics of the game.
Although the overall gameplay was unique, however, it did slightly suffer from a few control issues. When stacking into a few characters, there were simple abilities that were literally hit or miss. When it came to doing some of the glove slaps, the receiver was not always highlighted with the white glow that others get when they are ready to fall victim of what you might have in store for them. Also, after stacking with a few dolls, unstacking becomes a not-so-organized mess. Accomplishing a “family set,” which is multiple dolls of the kind, can become troublesome when going from large to small. Especially at the risk of getting caught by the guards or losing one of the in-between sizes.
Jumping into doll after doll does leave you unstacking while you are figuring out what to do next, but having the last doll in the way after unstack can become an annoying task with the turning radius of larger dolls. Stand by a door and do this leaves you stuck in between a wall-and a doll.
Stacking is a game that should not be passed up. The gameplay images from the game do it no justice without context. Scenes where you can literally blow the hinges off a room by the combination of a few choice natural elements are savored in the gameplay. If you think that it is going to be a boring kiddy game that does not have anything for you to enjoy as a “gamer,” think again. While it does present itself as a puzzler/adventure game, the unlocks and witty humor give this game stature and substance. If you’ve got the points, then by all means, make it rain.
[xrr label=”Rating: 8.5/10″ rating=8.5/10]
–Minor Control Issues
–Close Quarter Camera Issues