Stacking - game review
Double Fine makes some of the most original, fun and cute games, which are quite cramped on the gameplay side, and usually don't sell the best. After moving with a publisher and not very popular of the last project, Tim Schafer, the head of the developer and an industry comedian (in a positive sense of the word), decided to change tactics and enter the boom for smaller productions distributed through digital distribution channels. The producer, known for his impeccable sense of humor, divided his team into small teams and forced them to make a superhuman intellectual effort (Schafer is also a tyrant and megalomaniac), which is undoubtedly the development of not one, but several pearls that will delight players. The first fruit of this system was the lovely but boring Costume Quest . We got to know the second proposal a few weeks ago - Stacking is an adventure game in a world inhabited by matryoshkas.
Charlie Blackmore is the smallest boy in the matryoshka universe and he seems to suffer a bit from it. We all know how reality takes its toll on people who deviate from mediocrity. As if that were not enough, fate puts the feisty and fearless young man to the test. His siblings and father are kidnapped and harnessed to inhuman work for the evil Baron. Charlie sets out to save them and quickly discovers that the modest size is actually a huge advantage. By jumping into other inhabitants of the world, the kid takes over their properties and abilities. This is how we deal with all adversities.
Charlie's adventure has been divided into several zones that we can freely explore in search of funny details, puzzles and new dolls that we collect at the same time. The most important element of the game are the so-called challenges, i.e. situational problems that we have to face in order to develop the plot. We usually save someone, try to get someone's attention, or we just mess up. Puzzles most often give access to particularly rare characters with the greatest causal power. To break the strike of children working in coal mining, we need three notables from the railway management. The cruise ship captain will only end the cruise when forced to do so by the four most important passengers. Gathering a whole set of themed babushkas allows you to finish a given scene and move on.
The Double Fine studio team came up with a really simple and interesting idea on how to use the multitude of available dolls and their abilities, and at the same time combine the tastes of people who shake their noses to a high level of difficulty and lovers of challenges. The puzzles can be solved in several ways. After discovering the first method, the game shows how many more variations are foreseen - at this point we can think further about the remaining options or simply continue the story and possibly return to the given nuisance in the future. At the same time, the production does not exert any pressure on the player, so fans of peaceful exploration of the world do not have to rush.
Why bother with more and more solutions to the same puzzle, when one answer is enough? As a reward for discovering each method, we get access to a new location, where usually hidden dolls for the collection are hidden. Collecting all of them is required to complete the achievement / trophy, but in fact the search brings more universal satisfaction. Individual matryoshkas have funny, often completely useless, abilities, and they also make resolute comments about reality. Searching locations and completing additional challenges (the so-called hi-jinks) is therefore quite a joyful activity that actually doubles the time we spend with the game. It takes about 4-5 hours to complete the adventure in its most basic version, but it takes at least twice as much to discover all the attractions.
A great idea for the game was connected with funny cutscenes referring to silent cinema. Sometimes the scenes are a bit long, but that's the fault of the chosen convention. During the game itself, we visit colorful locations filled with dozens of different matryoshka dolls and details. The world of Stacking is a combination of the Central European interwar reality with the imagination of developers. As a result, well-dressed gentlemen and well-dressed ladies parade against the backdrop of furnishings made, for example, of huge forks. The authors humorously treat both trivial and deadly topics - from farting or belching to the exploitation of cheap labor, such as children. It is interesting that in every production of Double Fine studio - Psychonauts , Brutal Legend or Costume Quest - very strong motives are: family (especially siblings) and childhood.
Tim Schafer and Lee Perry, the originator of the game about matryoshka dolls, coquetted the journalist in one of the interviews that in Stacking only one character model was used (after all, the dolls differ only in sizes and textures), which allowed to significantly reduce the cost of production. It's a joke, but Stacking could really be better than the graphics. Fortunately, it is rewarded with eye-catching styling and atmospheric music (as long as we like classic-sounding piano strumming). What is surprising, however, is the occasional clipping and drops in animation smoothness.
Producers from Double Fine still have some problems with mastering the camera work, the way of showing the action or control systems. Each of these elements is a bit clunky. In other words - there are games in which just running and jumping are fun, but unfortunately the studio's new creation is not theirs. And this is actually the main complaint against this production, because not the best character handling makes it a bit difficult to receive all the curiosities.
The nice world of matryoshka dolls has managed to contain a lot of warmth and good humor, which in modern games is like a medicine. Perhaps this is not an adventure that causes uncontrolled laughter every five minutes. Instead of crazy humor, in each statement we get a well-balanced story in an unusual convention. The whole thing was lined with fun and addictive solutions and ended in a hilarious way. If there is a correlation between the level of abstraction of a game idea and its high quality, then in this case we have an example that confirms this thesis.
Szymon "Hed" Liebert