AtomicGamer
Advertisement
Advertisement

Log In

Username:
Password:
Remember Login?
Advertisement

Hottest Files

Newest Files

Latest Comments

Hosted Files

Advertisement

Stacking Preview

By Jeff Buckland, 1/30/2011

Facebook Twitter Reddit Digg StumbleUpon

It’s always satisfying seeing great game designers get the chance to work towards their strengths. Tim Schafer had vital roles in the creations of some of the most classic adventure games around - Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, and Grim Fandango all were co-written, co-designed, or directed by him. His team at Double Fine delivered the excellent but under-selling Psychonauts in 2005, and then got to deliver a triple-A title in 2009 with Brutal Legend. Again the game hit store shelves to critical acclaim but only mild retail success, and publisher EA wasn’t interested in a sequel. Now, Schafer and his team are working with THQ and they’re scaling things back a bit, bringing innovative downloadable games to the forefront. Last year we saw the charming Costume Quest, and soon we’ll see the release of their next project, Stacking.


Stacking is directed by Brutal Legend’s lead art guy, Lee Petty, and it plays out as a third-person adventure game set in a Depression-era world filled with those Russian (“Matryoshka”) stacking dolls. You play as little Charlie, the youngest in a loving family that has been kidnapped by an evil baron who’s putting children to work in awful conditions. Everything is wrapped in the atmosphere of the silent films, with scratchy visual effects, dialogue popping up as titlecards, and other small aspects of the early days of cinema. The environments are often made up of objects that a child would use to put on a stage play or diorama, and they often properly match the size of a real Russian stacking doll, so a ship’s smokestack will be a cigar, a fence is made of Popsicle sticks cut in two, and the like.

Stacking is directed by Brutal Legend’s lead art guy, Lee Petty, and it plays out as a third-person adventure game set in a Depression-era world filled with those Russian (“Matryoshka”) stacking dolls. You play as little Charlie, the youngest in a loving family that has been kidnapped by an evil baron who’s putting children to work in awful conditions. Everything is wrapped in the atmosphere of the silent films, with scratchy visual effects, dialogue popping up as titlecards, and other small aspects of the early days of cinema. The environments are often made up of objects that a child would use to put on a stage play or diorama, and they often properly match the size of a real Russian stacking doll, so a ship’s smokestack will be a cigar, a fence is made of Popsicle sticks cut in two, and the like.


Each level has Charlie rescuing a new family member, but in the way lie major challenges you’ll have to solve, and each one has at least three solutions. Usually this revolves around finding the right doll to stack into and using its ability properly, but sometimes it’s more complex than that. Players can move on in the game having only completed a challenge one way, but completionists will want to find every solution in order to unlock more stuff. Luckily, the game doesn’t try to hide or obscure them away; there’s a hint system that’s reminiscent of those seen in the “Solid Gold” editions of Infocom text adventure games. You can look up any challenge you’ve discovered, see the number of solutions, and then look up hints - the first hint is very vague, and the next a little more precise, and so on, until the final one just tells you how to do it. This allows you to play the game how you want without having to dash off to the internet to find a solution if you’re stuck. Or, you can ironman it by never looking at the challenge interface, and figuring them all out without any prompting.

What surprises me the most about Stacking is just how well the whole visual style works. To say this hasn’t been done in a video game before is an understatement - as it often is with projects that Tim Schafer’s involved with - but really, the combination of silent films, those weird little dolls, and the stage play concept all come together very nicely. Stacking quite carefully strikes a balance between art, design, gameplay, and cuteness, never letting one element happen at the cost of the others, and the result is a game that’s simply adorable in a way that even a hardcore action gamer has a good chance of enjoying.


I did get to see or play a good couple hours of Stacking, and during that time it was consistently delivering fresh ideas and quite a few laughs. As long as that keeps up all the way through, I’m convinced this will be one of the most enjoyable and refreshing XBLA/PSN games in a while. If I only had one wish, it’d be for THQ and Double Fine to also eventually bring it to the PC so it can have sharper visuals, Steam achievements, and possibly some kind of mod support. Either way, the console release is coming up soon: Stacking hits Sony’s PSN on February 8th for $15, and Xbox Live Arcade one day later for the equivalent price of 1200 MS Points.


Related


Comments

There aren't any comments yet. You could post one, but first you'll have to login.

Post a Comment?

You need to login before you can post a reply or comment.