Stacking is genuinely unique, and it would be a challenge to find a game similar to the likes of it. It's a puzzle game starring Russian stacking dolls with the end goal of uniting a family separated through the challenges of mandatory child labor. Although this may sound dark, the game also showcases the same witty humor one would expect from a Double Fine game. In ways that one would imagine extremely peculiar, Stacking shines, but in other fronts, Stacking sometimes falls short and doesn't quite take advantage of the interesting dynamics the premise creates.
Stacking stars the youngest of the Blackmore family, Charlie. Charlie and his family are set in an artificial industrial era of the world, and Charlie isn't quite big enough to start working with the rest of his siblings in different forms of child labor. With a distraught mother mourning over the separation, Charlie goes out on an adventure to find each of his siblings and send them home. The story's premise, although seemingly heavy, is complemented well with absurdly comedic dialogue and situations. As Charlie uses other people to get closer to his siblings, very zany events occur such as going inside a Russian doll depiction of a bird and flying into its nest, or using a woman to slap all of the gentlemen surrounding her. One big problem lays with the story, and it is that it only takes about four hours to beat Stacking from start to finish. With such a unique and creative environment, one is left eager to explore more right as the game comes to an end.
Although Stacking has such a charming "exterior shell", the gameplay seems to be its core. As Charlie, the player is in control of the smallest of the Matryoshka dolls. Charlie can stack into each size of doll in order to perform actions that can only be done in certain dolls. This may sound like it leads to very deep puzzle solving, but sadly, it does not. It was very fun to go around in many dolls to explore and see which may help me advance at first, but I soon found an extremely problematic feature. With one press of the space bar, a glowing light will indicate you on what direction you should be going, for the puzzle, from the exact place you are standing. In the same sense that god mode cheat codes tend to ruin the fun of gameplay driven games, this "hint" button begins to take some of the fun away from the puzzles that otherwise would have been deep and gratifying with completion. This problem can be the biggest flaw in Stacking's gameplay depending on how well disciplined the player can be to avoid tapping the space bar.
One notable feature about Stacking is its immense amount of replayability. With a four hour story, Stacking can offer double or even triple that based on how much of a completionist the player is. At the end of each level, the player is brought to a section of the game where they can see their progress on completing the game to the maximum extent. Things such as using an assortment of different dolls to do an assortment of different things bring the player back to levels on numerous occasions, and since the levels are so charming and generally attractive to the eye, it is a pleasure to make the return.
Stacking is, if anything, unique and charming. The Blackmore family is an interesting one, and although my time with it is short, and at times mundane because of a lack of difficulty, it was a pleasurable experience to say the least. With an industry of many games being very similar at a fundamental level when released, Stacking is a breath of fresh air, even with its flaws.