Gamer's Review - Stacking

I love Russian Nesting dolls and I have a real nesting doll too. Sooo on the chopping block today. It's Stacking from Double Fine. As with every Double Fine production there is a healthy of humor in this game and garnishes of satire as you play as Charlie Blackmore, the youngest boy in a family of chimney sweepers who has to rescue his family from forced labor during what looks like the turn of the century....to make things very interesting everyone is a Matryoshka aka Nesting doll of various different sizes, hobbling around like "real" animated dolls, talking via speech bubbles and each with their own special ability...ranging from the strange (farting) to the mundane (punching people with a right hook.)

Nesting Doll physics are a big part of the game play. For example, the inventory is your character. Charlie, the smallest nesting doll in the world has the ability to stack into other dolls one size bigger then him and in turn he can into another doll, while still inside the previous...making clicking noises akin to smaller nesting dolls wobbling into inside the "big sister" doll shell. How does this ability get put into creative use? Need to sneak past a guard by flirting with him...just stack into a beautiful lady doll. Need to scare the pants off cruise guests and shut down a wildlife park....stack into a bear.

The game objectives are simple. Each place Charlie explores has an obstacle you must solve (Ex. sneak past the guard)...and those obstacles have multiple solutions. A hint system is available for those who are stuck...along with conversations with other dolls on how to solve the obstacle. In addition to the main tasks, Charlie can do secret hi jinxes which can be things like oh farting in public...punching out mimes.

The Nesting Doll motif carries into the art style....the entire world seems to crafted by hand with murals being hand drawn with crayons and the infrastructure looks like it was made from salvaged materials. Places you get to visit include a train deport and a cruise ship. Although they remain expressionless through the game, the dolls still express themselves through subtle motions of their body, for example a sultry female sways her lower shell half as she walks. The nesting dolls themselves like real nesting dolls are beautifully detailed and looks almost like they have have been hand painted and deserve a place in your home. Such dolls include opera singers, mimes, dogs, and even bears. Cut scenes play out in pseudo stop motion and fashioned after the old silent films of old.

In conclusion despite the sometimes awkward camera angles (more so due to my mouse's orientation)  this is a very creative game for both its nesting doll approach and motif, hand crafted feel in art direction and healthy doses of humor.

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