When Double Fine's Stacking hit consoles back in February, it was a refreshing change from the run-and-gun shooters that seem to have populated consoles lately. The primary game mechanic of using Russian stacking dolls to solve puzzles was something we hadn't seen before, and the somewhat dark story line contrasted nicely with Double Fine's trademark humor. The release of this month's DLC, The Lost Hobo King, extends the gameplay but doesn't quite deliver the depth that we saw in the main game.
Accessed from the main menu, The Lost Hobo King is a stand-alone adventure. It ostensibly occurs after the main game, but with the exception of Charlie and Levi's friendship, no story elements carry over.
As the story goes, Levi's uncle Rufus is the heir to the throne of the Hobo kingdom, but without the crown, he cannot officially be made king. It's up to diminutive Charlie to solve the mystery and once again save the day.
The core gameplay mechanics remain unchanged for this go-round, with the only real difference being the location and the new dolls available for use. Set in the Hobo kingdom of Camelfoot, the world maintains the same diorama-style construction as the main game. Built on a pier, Camelfoot consists of three main areas: the pier, the castle and the dungeon.
In order to claim the crown, Charlie must collect the three Hobo blacksmiths before making his way into the castle forge. Unfortunately, while it sounds like an epic quest, it feels a lot more like a side adventure.
Two of the needed blacksmiths can be found out on the piers, just off the main square. The third, and the only one that posed any sort of challenge, is trapped within the dungeon, surrounded by undead zombie dolls. Mental note: Zombie dolls are cool, especially with their glowing eyes.
One might expect that collecting the blacksmiths would only be half of the adventure, but instead, it is the bulk of the quest. The castle forge is just one large room where you carry out the final task. There is no imposing castle to explore and no major obstacles or traps to impede your progress. The net result is an ending that is pretty anticlimatic.
Given the relatively small area exploration area that Camelfoot offers, it doesn't take long for Charlie to complete his quest. On the first run-through, we spent roughly 40 minutes from start to finish, and that included solving one puzzle twice. By comparison to the main game, Camelfoot feels smaller than all of the original levels, including the train station. To be fair, all of the puzzles within The Lost Hobo King have multiple solutions, and the expansion offers a full complement of hijinks and unique dolls to find, but those are goals that really only appeal to the completionists out there. For the average gamer, the story mode is going to be the meat and potatoes of the DLC.
Ultimately, buying or passing on The Lost Hobo King comes down to a simple value proposition. At 400 MSP ($5) on Xbox Live and PSN, it's not terribly expensive and does deliver more of the adorable Stacking gameplay that defined the original game. However, with such a short play time, it feels more like a well-polished demo level than a fully developed DLC addition.
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