I’m a guy. I’ve never played with dolls before. That’s girl stuff, but when Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions releases a game featuring dolls, I start to change my outlook.
You play as Charlie Blackmore, the youngest and smallest of a family of matryoshka dolls. Charlie is trying to locate and rescue his siblings, who have all been kidnapped and forced to work hard labor by an evil industrial tycoon named The Baron. It’s up to Charlie to find out where his brothers and sisters are, and to find a way to get them out all through stacking into and out of other dolls around him.
Charlie has the ability to stack into dolls larger than him and control their movements. Each doll has its own ability that can range from locating other special dolls, to dancing, to ripping a nasty fart. The player must use these abilities to solve puzzles and trigger special scenarios to continue his quest to rescue his loved ones.
The game takes place over 5 different levels, each consisting of challenges and puzzles to complete. Early on, you run into a puzzle where Charlie is tasked to disrupt a dinner party for the rich and proper. There are many ways of solving the puzzle. Charlie can stack into a man that can let out a pungent fart into the air vents and force people out of the dinner with the horrible smell, he can distract the guard and sneak into the hall as an uninvited guest, or he can stack into an air vent repairman and sneak into the hall from the vents. Each solution is acceptable, and the player is rewarded with bonuses for completing a puzzle more than once with all the solutions.
There are unique dolls all around each area and stacking into them adds them to your collection that you can view at the hub world of the train station. All the rewards you obtain are much like this. You’re basically filling out a museum of all the dolls you’ve stacked into, as well as other unlockables you will obtain through completing challenges.
Outside of the story and puzzles you are allowed to create Hi-Jinks. A large list will pop up in the menu with entries into Hi-Jinks. Hi-Jinks is the game’s way of letting you just experiment and have fun using all the dolls’ abilities. Some entries include slapping 10 dolls and farting on 10 dolls. It gives the player a little more to do.
One of the best things about the puzzles and challenges is that you’re never lost. There is a fantastic hint system that will help you out in three tiers, each unlocking as time progresses. Also, anytime you don’t know where to look, just tap the right bumper, and a blue trail will pop up showing exactly where to go for your next objective. Both help systems keep the player moving and pace the game out nicely.
The game has a very cool and unique art style. It feels like you’re watching an old 1920’s silent film all acted out by stacking dolls. It’s charming and really gives off a nice vibe. Everything used in the environment are things that would be comparable to the size of a doll. So, you’re basically in a miniature world set up like a diorama. The music is that of the same caliber. It has a ragtime sound full of upbeat pianos and sets off the game excellently.
The only downside to the game is the length. With all five levels, you can expect around 4 hours worth of play. Granted, there is always more to do to get 100% completion and you’ll have a fun time doing it, but once you’ve done it all, you’re pretty much done. The game has a lot of charm and is very accessible with the hint system. For the people out there who like puzzle-solving and a charming story and art style, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up.
Review copy provided by publisher.