Dramatic. D[r]oll. Dark. Light. Charming. Unique. High industrialism without any of that trendy steampunk. You're not going to find another puzzle adventure game in the same tab as Double Fine's doubly fine Stacking. Instead of describing it in general terms, it would probably be more appropriate to telescope in through the Dewey Decimal System, except you'd have to do it backwards.
Let me explain. When Charlie, your protege, is cast onto the Post-Victorian scene, he possesses of the singular quality of being the smallest child in the world. This means that when and as everyone is a Matryoshka doll of an appropriate size, Charlie will neatly fit inside even the other child dolls. This allows him to take over that character and his or her individual special ability, which range from snapping flash photographs to blurting out an incredibly ostentatious "Good day, Sir!". This stacking can then continue and depending on who the top doll is, an opportunity to unlock one of the puzzles may just have presented itself.
Wait, so what does Charlie want to do this for exactly? Well, he's stranded at a 1920s (apparently, my history is fuzzy at best) railway station without his sizable [pun not intended] moth-eaten family, who obviously stack together perfectly. All the rest have been taken captive by a more-evil-than-the-norm coal magnate, the Baron. They're even being toiled without pay! And actually, the plight of the lower classes is manifest just in general. That's reason enough innit?
In practical terms, you'll be presented with the game's environments one hub at a time with some three-four-five challenges strewn about. While the locations are lively and immersive, the challenges themselves and their solutions range from vanilla to strawberry with a few lumps of chocolate here and there. There's always at least three ways to complete a puzzle, and you'll find one of them sufficiently fast. So much so that you can rush through the whole adventure in as few as three hours I'd imagine. But you're more likely to want to stick around and see if you can't find more solutions instead, at which point your alertness, and perhaps imagination, are going to be put to the test. If you wanted to be very professional about it, you might even take notes of which dolls have which abilities so you're not relying on so much roaming about.
The art assets have to be brought up separately: they're drop-dead gorgeous! The way the music, ambience, and 2D and 3D art interact can only be described as a sumptuous feast. It's truly a pleasure just to snoop about. The old-timey orchestral score is stirring and lovely and puts you in a good mood.
Towards the end the game starts giving you more hints for some reason – well, probably because of the final challenge being linear, without alternative solutions. And also because it introduces a new mechanism that's only used in the final leg of the game but that might have been interesting to see more of throughout. You're definitely not going to be taking to the built-in hints if you just want an any% completion. On the other hand, 100%-ing the main story felt a bit fluffy an effort seeing as many of those %-signs come from these mechanical hi-jinks (actually called that) that aren't really always particularly funny. That's not to say humor is in the slightest absent from the overall design and the dolls' quips – it's Double Fine after all!
The free and included Hobo King DLC is definitely the highlight: While the epoch really just serves as a backdrop, because hobos are such a mythical and mysterious subject, creativity was let loose with what kinds of antics they get down to in their own quaint little port. You could just about justify going through your entire task list in this mini "side quest".
So all in all, I think most people will get something out of the experience if you keep in mind it's designed for younger/more casual players and aren't expecting a tremendous mind-boggler. Two thumbs up!Reviewed by: LotBlind