We can tell Double Fine had fun making this game. A re-interpretation of the point-and-click adventure genre, Stacking feels more like a playground than a puzzle game. It’s something to keep in mind when asking yourself what you want from the experimental title. There Is a plot, a linear progression, a bunch of puzzles and some strictly
game-like elements such as achievements, but If you go full steam ahead along the straight and narrow you’re going to miss much of Stacking’s charm.
That’s not to say it fails to charm anyway. Stacking’s entire premise Is a world Inhabited by wooden matryoshka dolls — the ones where gradually smaller and smaller dolls can be placed Inside one another. They’re animated with a deliberately skittish and jerky style; a quality that goes a long way toward emulating stop-motion animation and gives each doll a depth of character that breaks through the limitations of a single facial expression, only two moving halves and no vocalisations beyond grunts and murmurs. You’ll believe these things live and breathe!
This is where the reinterpretation of adventure game mechanics comes into play. Puzzle solving requires the observation of rooms full of these animated dolls and determining who to stack into and where to use their ability. There is no inventory, nor are there any items. Rather, each ability becomes the verb for its use — whether it’s Toss Cookies, Glove Slap, or simply Flatulence.
Puzzles begin rather simply, whilst later ones require a correct series of characters stacked in order to bring them through a certain obstacle, then have them unstacked to use their abilities in tandem. Where the playground feeling to all of this comes in is through the presence of multiple solutions to almost every problem. Maps are large hubs, and the simplest solutions to puzzles are always contained within the room featuring the obstacle, Finding alternate solutions requires exploration and creativity.
Stacking pushes you to explore these alternate solutions, because without doing so the game is over far too quickly. This ultimately makes the game feel unfocused, like the product of a massive brainstorming session, but expertly solves the genre- wide issues associated with interpreting a designer’s logic, rather than logic itself. This is why it’s clear Double Fine had fun making this game — and it’s why you’re going to have fun playing it.