Games don't often come this far out of the leftfield and act like such a fan-dancing minx that you find yourself rolling around on the floor making staccato honks of happiness. Stacking is the second snack-sized game from Double Fine. It's lighter on jokey-jokes than its previous titles, but it does have a strong, sweet-natured soul - and an unexpectedly simple premise, from which all the puzzles and humour flow completely naturally.
That premise: you're Charlie Blackmore, the smallest nesting doll in the world. Your only power is to climb into a doll one size higher than yourself and control it - providing it's facing the other way. Each of the hundred-plus dolls in the game has a single, seemingly trivial power - blowing a whistle, farting, taking a flash photo, belching, seducing, punching, vomiting up cookies - which is all you need to solve all of the world's puzzles.
This simple concept means the puzzles can never be hard, but there are multiple solutions to every one. Once solved, you can progress - but the puzzle resets, allowing you to try out the other solutions. It's this single stroke of genius that transforms Stacking from a simple slog into something psychologically canny. Making 70 per cent of the puzzles optional - but visible - makes Stacking a game of voluntary exploration and pride, and neatly sidesteps any sense of duty or resentment.
Some grumbles - the camera is unreliable, but you're never in a situation that needs instant reactions. The combo powers introduced late on seem to acknowledge and address the simplicity of the puzzles, without compromising the purity of the stacking system - but they're not used as much as we'd have liked. The finale is also a bit of a let-down, but it's not actually the end - you'll want to go back and hoover up all the bits you missed. At 1,200MP, Stacking shouldn't require a second thought - it's innovative, artistically brilliant, approachable to anyone, and perfectly pitched at all ages.
Original, beautiful, and one of a kind
- Gorgeous shoe-box Victoriana
- Excellent silent movie music
- There's no other game like it
- The puzzles are sweet...
- ...but they're also very easy