Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tobacco Video Game Review

I've got a pair of lesser known games to spotlight today, including one that is one of the more unique gaming experiences I've had. Without further ado, I'll leap right into...

Stacking (Xbox 360, PS3)
Who would have believed that a game about Russian nesting dolls (also called matryoshka or babushka dolls) could be charming, entertaining, challenging and gratifying all in one package-free package? The game is called Stacking, and it is available by download only. The hero of this game is the smallest of the nesting dolls in the Blackmore family, which specializes in chimney sweeping. Set toward the end of the industrial revolution (and taking full advantage of the opportunity for imagery that now might be called steampunk), Charles Blackmore must save his family, which has been forced into indentured servitude by the evil Baron. Charles, however, has only one power, the ability to stack, which he uses to enter into the bodies of others, control their actions and use their abilities. The effect isn't nearly as Body Snatchers as that might seem, though, and provides a fun bit of challenge, as you enter larger as you collect more. This mechanic allows some fun collecting games, like the one that asks you to stack five pianists (with suspiciously familiar names), resulting in a five-piano performance staring nesting dolls. The powers these dolls posses adds as much charm and humor as the story, which is told through "silent pictures", as you'll find characters that burp, mime, punch, measure, scream, vomit, and fly. There many whose abilities almost defy description, including one female with fragrant floral flatulence.
As for the pipe in question, it belongs to one Solicitor Barnabas, who can be found in the Royal Train Station. The gentlemen sports a top hat, a monocle, and dark brown pipe (probably a 3/4 bent billiard, although I could see an argument for a calabash). While the pipe is a deep brown when you first find the good Solicitor, if you complete his allotted task (in this case, asking the women in the station to accompany you for a night on the town) the pipe will transform from briar brown to glittering gold (not unlike the post-counting system at a favored forum I frequent, As for the smoking, he does puff the pipe, and a black plume of smoke arises, but then he coughs. Then again, what do you expect from a family game.
Stacking is a bit short, especially if you're not one to seek out all the collectibles and accomplishments, but that hardly seems an issue at only $15 on Xbox Live Arcade and PSN.

Vampire Saga: Pandora's Box (iPhone, PC)
This is a cheesy little game — not that there's anything wrong with that — well, basically about vampires. I don't want to give too much away, but the plot revolves around the main character's grandfather telling of how a ship he crewed was taken over by a vampire. Of course, the game itself doesn't have a whole lot to do with the plot. Vampire Saga is a hidden object/puzzle game. The picture searches give you items that you must use to allow the next part of the story. There's a lot of backtracking, and the fact that most necessary objects are received through the hidden object mini-games but some have to be spotted in the open environment will probably infuriate you a few times.
So why is this in the tobacco pipe review? The hidden object mini-games are practically littered with pipes. There are clays and briars and calabashes (and a few that were too dark to quite make out). Of course, the pipes don't add anything to the game, aren't singled out (other than maybe as an item you must tap to get your silver bullet), and play no role whatsoever except to clutter an already claustrophobic picture.
It's not a bad game if you like the genre, and the PC version is probably in the bargain bin at your local electronics retailer, but I wouldn't encourage anyone to seek it out.

Any questions or comments or criticisms about the reviews can be added below.

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