Stacking: The Lost Hobo King Review

The Lost Hobo King is a welcome return to the world of Stacking, but it's over before you know it.

The Lost Hobo King offers the chance to return to the charming world of Stacking, where beautiful Russian nesting dolls inhabit environments that feel pieced together from things you might pick up at a garage sale. Your $5 gets you a new area to explore, new puzzles to solve, and new dolls to meet, and if you're yearning for more Stacking, then you will enjoy your time in the hobo kingdom of Camelfoot. But completing the quest takes almost no time at all, and although there's joy in finding every solution to every puzzle and in simply playing with these dolls, there's just not enough to this trifling bit of downloadable content to make it wholeheartedly recommendable.

In this quest, you once again play as Charlie Blackmore, the diminutive hero of Stacking whose small size lets him leap into and control larger dolls. Charlie's new adventure begins with his friend Levi whisking him off on a secret hobo mission to save the kingdom of Camelfoot. To restore prosperity to the land, three mythical hobo blacksmiths must be awakened from their long rests so that the crown can be reforged and placed on the head of the rightful king. Only a doll as brave, resourceful, and tiny as Charlie can complete the trials, awaken the blacksmiths, and save the land. Like the environments found in the original game, Camelfoot feels like a large-scale handcrafted play set; rusty tin cans worked into the landscape make it feel like a fitting home for the hobos who live there, and you often find dolls huddled around lit matches for warmth.

Details like these make Camelfoot a pleasant place to visit. Unfortunately, there's just not much to do there. Three hobo blacksmiths to awaken means three challenges to pass, the most interesting of which requires you to make your way deep into a ghoul-infested crypt. But seasoned Stacking players will find working out one solution to each of these three challenges very simple, and if you do the bare minimum of one solution for each challenge, you can easily reach the story's conclusion in less than half an hour.

Like challenges in the main game, all of these puzzles have multiple solutions, and it's fun to return to each one and test your wits by trying to ferret out all of the ways to approach these situations. (Stacking's very generous hint system returns here, making it simple to get nudges in the right direction when you get stumped or just have solutions spelled out for you if you prefer not to work them out for yourself.) But even taking these multiple solutions into account, The Lost Hobo King feels like a short and insubstantial addition to Stacking, even when considering the modest $5 price. This is emphasized by the sudden and unsatisfying ending. After awakening the three hobo blacksmiths, you go through a straightforward set of actions that feel like they're building up momentum for an exciting climax but, instead, turn out to be the climax itself.

Every hobo appreciates the value of a fine bucket.
Every hobo appreciates the value of a fine bucket.

But the dolls who populate Camelfoot give you a reason to dally there for a while. You meet a meat merchant who's tossing out free samples of his product and a fisherman who you may be able to assist with his digestive ailment. Charlie can stack into hobo sages who can decipher the runes scrawled around the kingdom; a cheese maker whose stinky wares may drive away other dolls; a panda bear with a secret; and numerous other colorful characters. Simply encountering and interacting with these dolls is enjoyable. Talking to someone while stacked into a raccoon doll is likely to result in a very different response from doing so while stacked into an ordinary vagabond, and the greatest joys of The Lost Hobo King, like those of Stacking itself, come not from solving puzzles but from just playing around with the dolls and their abilities. There are 10 new hi-jinks to complete with the dolls you meet in Camelfoot, giving you an incentive to experiment with the skills of these characters, as if you needed a reason to go around whacking innocent dolls with a hobo's bindle.

The Lost Hobo King is just a tasty little morsel of new content. You meet some memorable new dolls and solve a few fun but simple puzzles. Unfortunately, this morsel is just enough to make you hungry for more, and not quite enough to leave you satisfied.

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    The Good
    Lots of memorable hobos
    Satisfying to work out multiple solutions to puzzles
    Dolls have fun abilities and amusing dialogue
    The Bad
    Story can be finished in less than half an hour
    Ending is abrupt and unsatisfying
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    Stacking More Info

  • First Released Feb 8, 2011
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 3 more
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Stacking is a downloadable third-person adventure puzzle game from Tim Schafer's Double Fine Productions.
    Average Rating551 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Double Fine Productions
    Published by:
    Double Fine Productions, THQ, Nordic Games Publishing
    Puzzle, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Crude Humor, Mild Cartoon Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco