Stacking is a simple puzzle game based around an old toy called Matryoshka nesting dolls. They’re Russian dolls that come in various sizes and open up. They’re made so that they fit inside each other, hence their names of nesting and stacking dolls they stack into each other by nesting inside each other. There’s two types of puzzles, one which is really simple and the other which is usually simple. The super easy constant puzzle is the stacking aspect, you play as the smallest of the Matryoshka dolls, so you have to find ones of the next size bigger to hop into over and over until you get into one that has the ability you need to solve the more complex puzzle. You can only jump into the next size larger but the ones you can jump into glow hence it’s super easy. The harder ones are environmental puzzles and ‘fights’ which are still just a different type of environmental puzzle.
You play as Charles Blackmore, the youngest smallest runt of a child to the Blackmore Chimneysweeps family. Their motto is “There is no mess that we can’t address”, something that Charles takes to heart. His family is rather poor, and his father gets a good job working for the Baron as the master chimneysweep. He heads off to go to work there and is never heard from again, then the children are taken away to do child labor to pay off the debt. Charles is rejected cause he’s a runt, after a while of not hearing from them he heads off to find them and free them.
The game is based on older England back when child labor was fine and accepted. As such all the kids were stolen as child labor. Everything in the game generally belongs to the Baron in some way or another. There’s four levels in the game: a train station, a ship, a zeppelin, a triple decker train, and a mini level on an offshore rig of some sort to end the game on. It doesn’t sound like much but trying to do everything in all the levels will take an hour or so each level easily.
Every level has a few environmental puzzles, and each of them have three to five ways to complete them. The game gives you hints that are on a like five-ish second timer before you get the next one, and the last hint actively tells you exactly what you need to do so they aren’t hard to complete, most of them you’ll figure out because they’re fairly easy a few are a bit tricky and will need the hint system. The game tells you exactly how many solutions there are for each puzzle so you don’t have to guess either. Upon completing a puzzle in every way you unlock a painting in your hideout. There’s also collectables in the form of unique Matryoshka dolls you have to control, these ones have names so they’re not hard to figure out; there’s a lot of them in each level. You unlock models of them in the hideout after finding them. There’s also another type of mini-mission you need to do in each level and there’s a lot of them. They’re little mischievous tricks you do in the level which require you to stack certain dolls or to play as one doll and do specific actions. None if it is hard, it’s just a matter of actively doing it.
I had a few issues with the game and one of them is a personal one that I both liked and had a problem with. The first one is that it uses a silent film style film reel look to the cutscenes which includes the perforations which by necessity flicker, between that flickering on the outside and the grainy fuzzy flickery appearance of the rest of the cutscene it really bothers my eyes and threatens to trigger seizures. It is cute and cool but I’d of liked it if there was a way to remove the perforations and the film grain effect from it, that would have been safer for me, so again this is a personal issue that won’t bother most of you probably. Another issue I had was the control of the character is sluggish and rough feeling, that being said it IS an Xbox360 game from the start of 2011. You do get used to it but at the start it’s rather annoying because the character and camera just don’t quite do what you want til you get a lot of practice. The last is, the DLC for the game isn’t backwards compatible apparently and I want it but I don’t want to dig out my X360, it’s not included in the game pass with the game, I wanted to play more levels honestly.
Other than that, I liked it, but I also like puzzle games in general. I thought the story was cute, everyone saw Charles as a worthless runt and everyone was worried about him then he went out on his own to save his family and children as a whole from Baron’s labor camps. Even Baron himself at first doesn’t pay Charles any mind eventually becoming hyper focused on this kid who’s doing things that he shouldn’t be able to do cause he’s a small kid. I just liked it, no idea why really; I was never a runt, so I’m not sure why it clicks with me but it does. I don’t argue with these things, and I’ve given up questioning them long ago.
Stacking was developed by: Double Fine
$10 on Steam (includes DLC), $15 on X360/PS3 (extra $5 for DLC): There’s no mess they can’t address but have they cleaned splooge out of a drain? Didn’t think so.
A copy was obtained via a personal subscription to Xbox Game Pass.
darkmikasonfire has awarded Stacking The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.