Stacking • Page 2

Welcome to the dollhouse.

The puzzles tend to be fairly simple. Often you'll find you've solved one by accident when you thought you were just exploring the options available to you, but a predictable range of locked-door and kidnapped-ally brainteasers are enlivened by the story, which dresses the scenarios up in everything from monkey-powered jalopy races to strike-breaking and jokes about the Hindenburg (too soon?).

For the most part, the key to any solution is finding the right doll – or combination of dolls – and using their powers in sequence. A magician might be able to vanish away a valuable object, while a guard can be lured from his post by a sexy lady – even when that sexy lady's made out of wood. Dolls come in various sizes, adding a gentle tactical element to your attempts to possess them, and half the fun comes from simply jumping around and trying out their specific skills, which include everything from mummifying enemies to vomiting up cookies, flying, and clearing out chimneys.

Meanwhile, the world they inhabit is a wonderfully crafted place, delivering the echoing grandeur of 1930s architecture and sooty technology with the home-made ingenuity of LittleBigPlanet. This is a game that rewards looking closely at things; if you do, you'll discover that balustrades are made from wobbly lines of matches, boats come with lolly-stick decks, and the battered edges of reinforced doors reveal that they're cut from cardboard rather than steel.

Factor in a detailed, optional hint system and Stacking's never a particularly difficult game to work through, but the emphasis isn't on solving the series of gentle problems you're faced with so much as trying to find all of the possible solutions available – a design that actively encourages a second play-through and an addled imagination. It makes for a short but wide adventure, with each of the handful of rambling environments packed with optional extras, including secondary challenges, special dolls to track down, sets to collect and Hi-Jinks, which are cryptic little tasks that reward unusual use of certain abilities.

As downloads go, this is generous and imaginative, then, and the richness of the world is more than enough to make up for an occasionally tricksy camera, a fair amount of backtracking and a tendency to pad things out as it heads towards the final act. Stacking's sweet, thoughtful, and perfect to play if you're bored of the usual videogame destinations. When it comes to games, then, what you forget can be as important as the things you remember.

8 / 10

Stacking Christian Donlan Welcome to the dollhouse. 2011-02-09T18:25:00+00:00 8 10

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