Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Double Fine Productions

Publisher:    THQ

Released:  March 2012

PC Requirements: 

  • OS: Windows XP SP3, win7
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz dual core CPU
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 256 MB GeForce 8800, Radeon 3850, or Intel HD 2000 Graphics
  • DirectX®:9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 1.5 GB free HD Space
  • Sound:DirectX Compatible Sound Card





by flotsam


If the setting were grim and gothic, Stacking would be full of possession and exorcism, and Charlie would be named Regan or Emily. Except the world is a cheerful, charming potpourri of colour and frivolity populated by different sized Russian dolls. So Charlie is Charlie and what we have when we jump into someone else’s body is simple, harmless stacking.

Charlie Blackmore is working class to his painted-on boots, and is on a mission to rescue his siblings from the evil industrialist Baron. The family fell on hard times and, unable to pay their debts, the Blackmore children were rounded up for forced labour. All except Charlie, on the basis of being so little.

So little Charlie heads off into the very big world, where everyone and everything is bigger than he is. But Charlie’s diminutive side is a plus, as is his heritage. Like Russian dolls do, Charlie can stack.  Which means nothing is beyond him, whatever the size of the challenge.

Take the Key Master. So much bigger than Charlie, and he isn’t likely to open the gate just by asking. But if Charlie can stack into him, he can use him to do what he needs him to do. So, approach the right-sized doll from behind, and stack into him/her/it. Then move on up until you are a doll size away from the Key Master, and voila! Jump into him, open the gate, and be on your way. If the next conundrum needs a smaller doll, just unstack until the right size is achieved and on you go.

The Key Master is an obvious solution, but most aren’t, although all are solved by using the various abilities or attributes of the dolls around you. Each doll has key ability, possibly to shout loudly, run very quickly, or smile seductively. Or to punch uppercut-edly or fart rather odorously.

Used in various ways, it's these abilities that enable you to progress through the environments to achieve Charlie’s objective. So exploration involves hopping about, stacking and unstacking, to see what happens when you use the ability of the current doll, and then thinking about its creative uses.

Don’t forsake the unhuman either. I was a bird and a bear at different times, both incredibly useful.


It’s a vibrant world, exactly what you would expect for Russian dolls, and the little cutscenes which play like silent movies on a theatre stage (complete with the clatter of an old style projector) add to the feel-good nature of the happenings. The dolls don’t speak, but there is much to be said, and you can talk to every single doll you come across. Speech bubbles do the conversing, but there is plenty of environmental noise and a very excellent soundtrack.

If you played Stacking to get to the end, it wouldn’t take you much more than a few hours, especially if you made frequent use of the hint system. However it’s more like a doll's house, with much to do that has nothing to do with getting to the end.

One aspect that makes it both shorter and longer is that every conundrum can be solved in more than one way, sometimes four or five. So however your brain might work to put together a solution, there are more to be had. Finding one might be easy, but finding them all adds to the challenge, as well as to the point score.

There are also numerous hi-jinks to be completed, which you can think of as side quests. You can pull up a list of these from the menu (although you only get the name not the objective) and there are about a dozen in each location. The names might give you a hint as to what is involved (the bathroom chatterbox for instance) or which dolls you might need to stack into to achieve it, but you might also accidently stumble on a hi-jinks simply by talking to dolls or using their abilities. This might trigger a little pop-up saying something like “do that ten times”, or “fly to all the nests” and you then know the objective of that particular hi-jinks. The game keeps track of all your achievements, including your hi-jinks progress.

But wait, there’s more!


Certain dolls are “special” and finding these is another in-game challenge. You might have to reunite a family of dolls, stacking into all of them at the same time to complete that particular challenge. The ability of some dolls will help you find the special dolls, or you can just look for the sparkly ones.

You can ignore as many of these as you like, come back to them if you want to, or methodically do all of them before moving on. Like the hi-jinks, they aren’t needed to get to the end of the game, but they do add to the gaiety and fun factor involved.

At certain times you will automatically return to your “secret lair”, where your friend Levi constructs a diorama of your adventures. These are quite majestic constructions, and the more you have done in each location (on board the ship for instance), the more elaborate will be the diorama. You can pop back at any time as well, just to see how it is going.

You will need to use the keyboard to get around, although you can configure it to a certain extent to suit your preferences, and on occasion the third person camera angle wasn’t what I wanted. But the mouse takes care of that, and you generally have an excellent view of what you are doing and where you are going. I did get lost on the ship, but that was my fault. A tap of the space bar showed me the path to the next objective and I was back on track.

Stacking is everything a game of Russian dolls should be. It’s a jaunty, colourful frolic, incredibly well put together and with excellent production values. There is a lot of harmless fun to be had with Charlie.


I played on:

OS: Windows 7

Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz

Ram: 4.00GB DDR2 400MHz

Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb


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