Stacking was developed by Double Fine and published by THQ. It was released on XBLA on February 9th for 1200MS points.

Stacking is an adventure/puzzle game that places you in control of Charlie Blackmore, who is the smallest member in a family of Russian stacking dolls. The Blackmore family is being forced to work for a rich industrialists know as “The Baron” and it is up to Charlie to free them. Charlie must stack inside other dolls and use their special abilities in order to make his way through 4 areas and defeat the evil Baron.

Riding high on their October release of Costume Quest, Double Fine has found room for success on the XBLA platform. With that said, expectations for Stacking were extremely high considering it was from the minds of Tim Schafer and the team of hit-makers at Double Fine.  Luckily, Stacking surpassed most expectations and stands out as an early favorite for 2011 XBLA Game of the Year.

So here’s what we liked:

Multiple solutions – As Charlie makes his way through each area, multiple puzzles will stand in his way. Luckily, there are 3-5 ways to solve every puzzle in Stacking. Creative thinking is an absolute necessity if you wish to solve each puzzle multiple times. Clearing areas can be done by screaming “make way” or by passing gas in a crowd of people. It really is as open ended as your imagination. Sometimes the thing that seems like a dumb idea can be the solution, so trust your intuition.

Hints – Some puzzles in Stacking can be very hard to figure out at times. This game could have been a bit of a disappointment if every gamer was left searching the internet for solutions every 20 minutes. However, as an absolute stroke of genius, every puzzle has 3 tiers of hints. No guides are required when playing Stacking, everything you’ll ever need is neatly tucked away in the menus. The first hint to each puzzle features a slight hint to part of a solution. The second hint adds a little more information to the mix. And the third hint is a blatant answer to the puzzle if it’s still too hard to figure out. Using hints doesn’t disable achievements or affect the gameplay, so don’t hesitate to ask for a little help. But be careful not to abuse the feature because it can ruin the fun if overused.

Great visuals & environments – Every doll found in Stacking is incredibly unique. The details on every doll will leave gamers rotating cameras in order to admire each newly found character. The areas these dolls operate in are just as amazing. The feel of the 1930’s is never broken throughout the game. Add these two features together and you have a game that is unlike any other game. Sure, creative thinking puzzle games have been done before, but not quite like this. Stacking will forever be a game that players remember experiencing for the first time in very vivid detail.

And here’s what we didn’t like:

Non-stackable dolls – There are very few dolls in Stacking that are unable to be used, but those few dolls really stand out. The first reaction to almost every new character will be to try to stack inside them. The mind begins to wonder if stacking inside dolls isn’t allowed. It’s a rare occurrence, but you’ll swear it’s possible to use these dolls when you encounter them. Sadly, controlling new characters isn’t always an option.

Overall, Stacking is a great game. Puzzle and adventure fans will love this game along with any gamer looking for something refreshing and new. With the hint system, the difficulty will adjust to each individual gamer on the fly. It’s as hard or as easy as each gamer needs it to be and the experience is one-of-a-kind no matter what difficulty is applied. Double Fine has hit another home run with Stacking.

Score: Buy It