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
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
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.
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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