Stacking on Top Score

by Emily Reese
April 26, 2011

Listen Top Score Episode 2
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Stage scene in Stacking from Double Fine Productions (Double Fine Studios)

A few months ago, I was browsing through new downloadable games on the PlayStation Network. A game called "Stacking" caught my eye, initially because of its adorable factor. I read some reviews of the game, all were positive, and decided to go ahead and download it.

The instant the music began, I thought, "Hey, I know this! This is Chopin!"

Stacking is set in the Gilded Age, dealing with the rather heavy issue of child labor in the late 19th century. The player is a tiny doll named Charlie Blackmore, whose family combines into a full set of Russian stacking dolls. When Charlie's father disappears suddenly, the family goes into debt. An evil Baron forces the rest of the family to work to pay off the debt, leaving Charlie to rescue each of them.

Little Charlie has the ability to stack inside dolls that are one size larger than him, and each doll has a special ability. Some dolls startle others to get them out of the way, perhaps another will play a melody on a violin as a distraction; there are dolls with rather bad habits that force others to leave a room, and there's even a doll who seduces those around her so they follow right behind. Charlie needs to solve a host of objectives, including unlocking doors, clearing rooms, releasing prisoners or sneaking into parties.

The joys in playing Stacking come from the multiple solutions to each puzzle, the unique combinations of dolls, gorgeous design elements and one terrific soundtrack.

Audio director Brian Min wanted to use 19th century music to paint the scene, using veteran video game composer Peter McConnell to fill in the gaps. But Min felt the game should incorporate music from the 19th century that might not be as well-known, but from famous composers like Chopin, Brahms, Vivaldi, Mozart, Paganini, Mendelssohn and more.

I had the pleasure to speak with McConnell, Min and the game's designer, Lee Petty for the second episode of Top Score. Download the audio using the link on the right.