Stacking Review

Leave it to Double Fine Productions to take something as unconventional as Matryoshka dolls and do more than simply accomplish the zany task of turning them into a video game, but also create something clever, imaginative, and of course humorous that makes one wonder why something like it had never existed before. Stacking on Xbox Live and PSN is the result of this unlikely inspiration, and is a delightful departure from the norm, with plenty to keep gamers entertained within its small, focused scope.

StackingPlayers enter the silent-film-inspired world of Stacking as the smallest in a family (or stack) of chimney-sweeping dolls, all of whom are kidnapped by an evil Baron and forced into slave labor — all except Charlie, that is. It’s up to Charlie to find and rescue his family and just about everyone else in the Stacking world by stacking into larger and larger dolls and using their unique abilities to solve a variety of problems throughout his comic adventure.

The game oozes style with its clean graphics and very fitting, 1930s-influenced score. The world is built out of of common household items like pins, matchbooks, bottle caps, and playing cards, compounding on the doll theme and giving the game a sort of Toy Story feel. The silent film theme works perfectly; the fact that the game’s characters can only pantomime their often ridiculous dialogue makes sense — these are wooden dolls, after all — and adds to the game’s humor, especially when you get silly and read the captions aloud in different voices. Stacking is clearly not meant to be taken seriously at all, and that makes it all the more enjoyable.

The game plays out as a number of challenges across four main areas, which are unlocked in sequence. These challenges usually involve accessing or rescuing a small group of special dolls individually, which are later used in conjunction to complete a culminating task for that area. What gives the game its surprising amount of depth is the fact that each challenge has multiple solutions, making creative experimentation possible. What’s more is that once a challenge is completed, the player can move on, but may also repeat the same task using different dolls, abilities, and strategies, and the game never needs to reset a level to allow players to attempt a new solution. Being a completist in Stacking is painless and rather seamless, and there’s certainly plenty to do; every one of the four-to-six challenges in each area can be conquered in three to five different ways, and the game tracks other achievements like using specific abilities and discovering unique dolls.


Stacking strikes a wonderful balance of putting an emphasis on completion and exploration without forcing it on players. Charlie’s friend Levi the Hobo (that’s his legal, given name, I’m sure) records progress by painting murals of each completed level and displaying all of a player’s discovered dolls below. Challenges are represented by puzzles, where each solution adds another piece to the picture. This visual approach provides great motivation to return and seek out new solutions, on top of simply listing accomplishments and percentages, which Stacking also does.

Stacking is definitely what one might call a “light” gaming experience; it moves at a relaxed pace and allows for creative exploration of an interesting and inviting world while serving up plenty of laughs. The game’s puzzle-adventure foundation is of the reformed variety; it doesn’t demand cleverness so much as imagination, and hints are scattered in the forms of images and conversations, so players won’t find themselves stumped. For its entertainment value alone, it’s absolutely worth playing, and lucky for everyone, it’s priced to move at $15.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

One Comment on "Stacking Review"

  1. Gary Birch March 9, 2015 at 1:22 pm -

    where can i buy the dolls!?!

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