For those of you clamouring for a game that lets you live out your dream of crawling inside dolls and wearing them like a pelt: you're in luck.
Stacking is the latest game to be born out of Double Fine Production's recent development strategy. After Brutal Legend's release Tim Schafer and the team went a different direction and implemented a system based on a brainstorming technique from Kar Wai Wong, the Japanese director who once wrote the scripts for two of his most successful films by sitting in a hotel for two weeks with a few actors. Similarly, Double Fine was split into teams to develop smaller titles faster. Heading one of these teams is Brutal Legend's art director, Lee Petty, who had a hand in shaping what's likely to be one of the most imaginative titles of this year.
As the story goes, the idea behind Stacking came from Lee watching his daughter play with Russian Matryoshka dolls, and keeping in the context of child's play the game's environment looks like it's been modelled after a cubic tonne of playroom leftovers. Planks on ships are made from Popsicle sticks, tents are held up with spoons, and so it makes sense that you're a toy as well. In this case you're Charlie, the Matryoshka world's smallest doll. You're a chimney sweep in a makeshift nineteenth-century toyland, and your family has been forced into indentured servitude as child labourers by a local industrialist. Your job is to find and reunite them, and to do this you use your skills in jumping inside of others and taking over their bodies, and I write that in the twee-ist sense of the phrase.
On a scale from quaint to whimsical Stacking hits somewhere directly in between the two, with Charlie stacking into others and acquiring their specific special abilities to solve puzzles. Some of them will shake salt from their hair, some of them will burp and clear a room, some of them will play violin or sip tea, some of them will be birds or terriers. Every doll has an ability, some more unique than others, and finding them is the key to getting 100% completion.
At times it touches on the classic absurdism we've seen in past Schafer titles. An example: The Baron screaming "RELEASE THE FISH" as Goldfish cheese crackers pour onto the sides of his blimp like an orange geyser. Even the puzzles have a slightly absurdist edge. How do you clear a room of toxic gas? Introduce it to a woman that farts flowers. How do you get past a guard? Stack into a dog. How do you ruin navigation maps? Stack into a window-cleaner and wash off the ink.