Jan 032012
 

Title: Stacking

Format: XBLA

Reviewer: Remy77077

Approximate Time Spent playing at time of writing: 18 hours

Modes of play: Single Player

Stacking is another single-player challenge title based purely around puzzle-solving – unlike titles like Braid, Portal or The Ball, there’s absolutely no dexterity skill tests at all. Puzzles are solved simply by moving your character around and single button presses to activate abilities. As such it’s great to have a pure mental-challenge title for once, and one that can even be played as a bit of  “mong game“.

At it’s best, Stacking becomes an interesting logic puzzle. How do you ruin someone’s printed maps? Find the character with a soapy-washing ability who you’d seen earlier and use it on the maps. However at it’s worst Stacking is an exercise in dumb trial and error – how do you get past an armoured guard – use a tailor to measure his armour to get him to take it off… and then hug him ??!?! because he doesn’t like being hugged, duh, it’s obvious. :-/ So sadly because of these types of challenges, it can become more about backtracking & busy-work, constantly having to walk around to press buttons to talk to every character with every other character in the environment to get “clues” rather than testing any amazing puzzle solving skills on your part. Oddly, this is one challenge title where I do actually recommend using the in-game clues if you are ever stuck, because they often give you sensible hints that actually allow you to figure it out yourself rather than resorting to the “try everything on everything” approach. It’s a lot like the problems of traditional point & click adventures really, except generally Stacking is far easier than most puzzlers, it’s not really possible to ever get stuck – everything can be solved by trial & error eventually, even if it takes you a very long time. The most irritating part of the game is actually the “Hi Jinks” – where the only clue is a single text line as to what you are supposed to do to complete the hi-jink. I got frustrated by one in particular where my only clue was “Steward Stack”. This seemed obvious to me that I had to stack a bunch of stewards together, however the hi-jink just didn’t seem to complete no matter what I did, until it seemingly randomly decided I had just the right stewards and gave me it (exactly how the game decides who is a ‘steward’ character is also not clear though at times). It’s also frustrating in a few sections where the exact positioning of your character to use their ability correctly is not clear at all.

The thing that keeps Stacking ticking along nicely though, despite all it’s flaws, is it’s charm and character. The storyline is silly and simple but is also amusing and even heartwarming at times. So here’s where the real strength of it lies.

I can recommend Stacking as an amusing short diversion of a “mong game” with a nice storyline, but I can’t really recommend it as an interesting challenge in any way. If more of the challenges were solvable by good logical thinking – in particular the Ship level in the middle of the game stands out as being really well designed – and had a lot less silly trial & error types of puzzles it would be far better than it is. I often judge a puzzle by how I feel when I solve it. Do I get the joy of an “ah! Eureka!” moment when I’ve managed to figure it out, wondering why I didn’t think of it sooner, or do I get more of the “well that was a stupid waste of my time” feeling. Stacking has big parts of both, but with better design and a whole game like the ship level, it could’ve kept essentially the same mechanics but gotten far closer to the Eureka side of the scale.

Challenge Review:

Competitive Gaming Design Review: N/A.

Competitive Game Review: N/A.  Although it claims to have “online leaderboard” functionality, as with most titles, whatever Leaderboards where there they seem to have been wiped away in the latest XBox dashboard update – although I can’t imagine what kind of leaderboard they would have had for Stacking that would be an interesting competitive game anyway.

Interactive Story:  Good. It’s told throughout the title and while it uses cut-scenes mainly they use the in-game graphics and characters so you don’t feel taken out of the game-world too much at any point.

Toy/Experience:  Neutral.

Grind:  None really, but doing too much “trial & error” solving can feel like a grind.

Simulation:  None.

Overall Score: (gaining a star overall for it’s humour and story)

 

Other good review found on ThatGamerHub.

 

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