Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Stacking Game Poster Image
Brilliant, thoughtful puzzler has a little violence.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about puzzle solving and the concept of child labor in this puzzle adventure game that makes its players think. Clever contextual puzzles force players to consider the world and characters around them, figure out what needs to be done, and then come up with a way to do it by employing the special abilities of various stacking dolls. They'll also take in a smart story about a kid trying to bring an end to child labor in an industrialized society, learning about the harm and unfairness of child labor along the way. Stacking is a clever game with minimal violence and a rewarding story that will make kids think about the problem of child labor.

Positive Messages

Encourages common sense and creative thinking to solve puzzles. Narrative themes touch on the evils of child labor and the need to end it. Suggests even the smallest people can have a big impact on the world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Young Charlie is smart, kind, and helpful and rarely resorts to violence. He's mischievous -- using farts and vomit for humor and achieving goals -- but a good puzzle solver on a worthy mission. 

Ease of Play

Puzzles can be tricky, but common sense should see most players through. 


Wooden stacking dolls slap, shoot cork guns at, and punch one another. Occasional aggression. There's no blood, gore, or death. 


One of the dolls has a male seduction ability used to lure away a doorman. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A stacking doll appears to smoke a pipe.  

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stacking is an adventure puzzle game. Players inhabit the body of a small Russian stacking doll named Charlie on a mission to put an end to child labor. He's smart, courageous, and a little mischievous. Puzzles are solved by stacking with other dolls to gain their abilities. Most abilities are benign, but some involve mild violence, such the power to punch, slap, or shoot a corkscrew gun. There's no blood, gore, or death and no profanity. One of the dolls appears to be smoking a pipe, while another can use her feminine charm to get male dolls to follow her around.

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What's it about?

Set in a world that prioritizes industrialism above all else, STACKING puts players in the shell of a Russian stacking doll named Charlie that's suddenly forced to start a campaign to put an end to child labor. When Charlie's father disappears, he and his siblings are forced to work to pay off the family's debt. Charlie is the youngest but also the cleverest. So small that he can nest inside virtually any other doll he encounters, he uses his wee stature to inhabit others and assume their abilities, which he uses to solve puzzles. He might stack inside a museum guard doll to gain the ability to lead kids around or another doll to open her parasol. The story provides ample opportunity to use a wide range of abilities to work out answers to many contextual brainteasers. Players also are free to experiment and see how each doll's abilities can be used outside of puzzles. There also are plenty of side objectives that encourage testing doll abilities in fun new ways.

Is it any good?

Double Fine Productions' games are reliably quirky (see Broken Age) and usually pretty fun (see Psychonauts). Stacking is no exception. Charming, witty, and focused on clever conundrums rather than any sort of serious or sustained violence, it forces players to find creative solutions to puzzling situations. Satisfaction comes not only in solving the puzzles -- there's usually more than one way to do so, and it sometimes requires the abilities of more than one doll -- but also working through the original and morally unimpeachable anti-child-labor narrative. You're going to root for Charlie and cheer all his victories, large and small.

It's a visual treat, too. The dolls have a wonderfully detailed hand-painted appearance, and the world, which carries an authentic 19th-century industrial vibe in its architecture and textures, begs to be studied -- which is nice, since keen observation is key to solving many of the puzzles. Families looking for a fun, thoughtful interactive experience can't go wrong here. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about child labor, a practice that continues in some countries today. What action can we take to put an end to it?

  • Families also can discuss puzzle solving. What sorts of things do you do every day that require cleverness and puzzle-solving acumen?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love puzzles

Themes & Topics

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