Another week, another round of random games to play. This week I ended up with Stacking, the adventure game by Double Fine and the PopCap masterpiece, Zuma’s Revenge. Let’s get into it, shall we?
I knew that Stacking was a Double Fine game, but for whatever reason I had it in my mind that it was some type of object stacking, physics-based puzzle game. I have absolutely no idea why, but that’s what I thought. If you’ve ever played Stacking you know that I’m wrong. If you haven’t played Stacking, here’s a little primer on what the game is.
Stacking is a story-driven adventure / puzzle game wherein you play the role of a Matryoshka doll (more commonly known as Russian nesting dolls). Your character is the smallest of his family and is tiny in comparison to most of the other dolls you’ll meet. This gives him quite the advantage though, as he can jump inside a larger doll, possessing it. So if you need someone to unlock a door for you, just jump inside them, take possession of them, and go open the door! The game is a bit trickier than all that though, as you can only stack into a doll one size higher than you. So if you want to possess the guy with the key, and he’s very large, you must first find other dolls to stack inside of until you’re one size smaller than your target.
As mentioned, Stacking is a Double Fine game so you’ll naturally find all the wit and charm that typically comes with those experiences. The art style is wonderful, adopting a silent film era aesthetic. The music and sound design suit the game well. The puzzles are challenging and interesting. All in all, it’s hard to say anything terrible about Stacking. I’ve said this before in other posts, but I’m not a big puzzle / adventure game guy, so this game isn’t necessarily up my alley, but I still managed to enjoy it a lot. If you’re ever looking for an experience that falls outside the realm of shooting and looting, Stacking is a great choice.
I have such an odd relationship with PopCap games. On one hand, they represent a lot of what I don’t like about video games. They’re cheap and kind of dumb, they don’t do much in the way of innovation, and they aren’t very deep. There isn’t much you can say about any individual PopCap game that you can’t say in a paragraph or two. And yet, I find many of their games to be incredibly satisfying in their execution. In specific Peggle and Zuma’s Revenge both have a fun and interesting hook.
Puzzle games fall into a few different genres, but most notably you have the narrative driven puzzle game like Myst or Portal, and then you have the arcade type puzzle game like Tetris or Bejeweled. PopCap focuses on making the latter type, and in that, they largely succeed. Zuma’s Revenge is a very simple game, conceptually. You have a chain of different colored orbs that move toward a hole. If the orbs reach the hole, you lose. Your job is to shoot more orbs into the chain, and when you match 3 of the same color, they disappear. In practice it’s really simple. If you have a yellow ball, you shoot it at the yellow balls in the chain. Zuma’s Revenge attempts to add depth to the gameplay through some different power ups but at it’s core, the gameplay is still very simple. It’s really fun though. I played Zuma’s Revenge a lot more than I should have, and I enjoyed my time with it a lot more than I should have. It’s another one of these experiences where I feel bad afterwards though. Playing a game like this instead of playing more games like Stacking makes me feel like I’m failing as a game enthusiast. I should be out there looking for and evangelizing the smaller games that more people should know about, not playing games that everyone already knows about. The world doesn’t need more people to play Peggle or Candy Crush, it needs more people to play Bastion and The Swapper. ‘But Zuma’s Revenge is fun’, my brain keeps screaming at me. Truly, it is a fun game, and one that I’ll probably play again sometime, pretentious nonsense aside.