Now that I’ve finished Old World Blues, I began having a peek through some of the latest games on Arcade. Three caught my attention and I downloaded the trial games.
Bastion was very pretty, and I love the way the world fills in as you move, but the gameplay didn’t quite work for me. From Dust has possibilities, and is incredibly atmospheric, but again it didn’t quite hook me.
Stacking from Double Fine hooked me immediately. In fact I’d bought it before the first Achievement which is usually dangled in front of you to help you part with 1200 points.
Stacking is set in a world of Russian nesting dolls (also known as matryoshka dolls or, babushka dolls). You play Charlie Blackmore, the smallest of the dolls. Charlie is the youngest of a large family who all work in some coal related industy. Set in the early Industrial era, Charlie has to rescue his brothers and sisters who have been taken by The Baron to do all the dirty, industrial jobs he could find.
Like all Double Fine games, Stacking has a unique art style. The cut-scenes are a blend of stage and Silent Film, while the environments are a blend of Silent Film, a world from the point of view of toys and a distinct feeling of the era that the game is set within. The dolls are also beautifully rendered and despite each doll having only a top and bottom half, they’ve still managed to give each their own movement style and personality. This gives the game an engaging atmosphere that would draw me in for a while even if the game itself was poor.
It’s not poor, though, and is a fun, interesting adventure style game. Charlie is able to stack inside other dolls, and control them. He can only stack inside a doll that is one size larger than him, but once in that doll, he can now stack inside a doll a size larger again. As the game goes on you can get into some quite large dolls.
Each doll has a unique ability, some of which are just fun, but most of which can be used to solve the various puzzles. In some cases you need to use the abilities of two separate dolls to solve puzzles. With so many dolls and abilities around, it’s fun just to explore and play with things to see what happens!
As a bonus, most puzzles have more than one solution, and you can come back later and try to solve them different ways. All of the unique dolls you stack into, and the puzzles you solve, are recorded in a secret hideout that you can visit between locations. The hideout also shows how many dolls you have left to find, and how many solutions to puzzles you’ve yet to solve. For collectors like me, this is heaven.
The storyline itself, along with the characters, is also engaging. It’s on the simplistic side, but it works, and helps drag you further into the world.
There are also those little touches that you only notice after a while, but add to the game experience. As you stack into larger dolls, then your point of view changes to reflect that height. It’s quite interesting to see dolls that you used to think of as ‘”large” now looking like midgets! Another touch is the way the colours desaturate when you stack into a dog doll. It’s subtle but adds to the atmosphere. Really, I could go on and on about all of these little, but worthwhile, touches – especially as I keep noticing more as I play.
The only issues I’ve found with this game is that sometimes the dolls are a little clunky to control, especially in tight areas, and sometimes the camera freaks out in similarly tight areas. Compared to the amount of fun I’ve been having, though, they’re pretty minor issues.
If you like unique, atmospheric puzzle/adventure games, I think this is a winner. I know I’ve got a lot of hours of fun out of it, and I still haven’t completed all of the game, nor the even downloaded the DownLoadable Content available for it…