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Dude, that doll is so stacked.
Tim Schafer has quite the impressive adventure game resumé. From the glorious old LucasArts point-and-clicks like Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island, to more personal labors of love like Psychonauts and Brutal Legend, Schafer has been one of the top creative minds in gaming for decades. As Walter Sobchak might say, he’s “not exactly a lightweight”.
[image1]And now from Schafer’s studio Double Fine comes Stacking, a game about… Russian dolls? You know, those matryoshka dolls where each doll opens up to contain progressively smaller ones?… It’s a game. Based on that. Okay, so it’s a far cry from mutant tentacles, asinine pirates, or Jack Black, but we’re willing to roll with it.
Stacking puts you in a world where these dolls, totally alive and sentient, live their lives and go about their business hardly any differently than you or I would, save for the fact that they have to waddle along without feet. Oh, and also that a small doll can jump into a bigger one and possess its every movement. Such an unsettling, Twilight Zone-esque concept turns out to be the primary mechanic for getting around and solving puzzles in Stacking.
As the youngest doll in a family splintered apart by an evil industrialist known as The Baron, your job is to travel to destinations like a train station, a never-ending pleasure cruise, and a high-flying zeppelin to rescue your captured siblings from a dreary existence of forced child labor (which one can only assume must be terribly inefficient when using wooden doll children with no arms or legs).
[image2]You can hop into any doll one size larger than you, provided its back is turned, and take control of it to manipulate the environment. From there you can hop into a doll the next size up and so on. Each doll has its own particular ability, so you will need to stack into the appropriate dolls to solve different puzzles. You can also "unstack" the outermost doll anytime you want, providing quick and dynamic access to any number of dolls you’re carrying along with you in servitude. Come to think of it, how is this any better than the forced labor you’re trying to stop?
Well, that’s a question best left to philosopher dolls. What you need to focus on in Stacking is puzzle-solving, and lots of it. Every puzzle has at least three different solutions. You only need to solve it once to progress through the level, but you can keep experimenting with other dolls to discover more solutions and in turn unlock more goodies.
The first puzzle, for example, has three solutions. To clear out a crowded room of condescending socialites, you can possess a sultry vixen to seduce and lure away the guard, enabling you to enter and scare them out with your disgusting lower-class visage. Or you can grab a mechanic to open up the ventilation shaft and sneak in that way. The most amusing method, however, is to take over the nearest smelly slob and fart into the vent, scattering those stuck-up snobs with the overwhelming power of flatulence.
For a downloadable game, Stacking promises a lot of quaint charm, non-linear solutions, and an unusually high level of replay value. You might want to jump inside when it’s released on PSN and Xbox Live next month.