Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.


Posted by Tracy Poff on May 31, 2012

Stack by Glenn W. Zuch is a 1985 Tower of Hanoi game for the Commodore 64 with stunningly bad design.

I’ve opened this on a rather strong assertion, but it’s really deserved. For all the games I’ve reviewed so far, the worst thing you could really say about them was that they were unoriginal, boring, and ugly. Certainly flaws, but totally common ones and not entirely the fault of the authors.

Stack takes badness one step further–or a dozen. Behold:

Both the bars and the stacks are numbered, and rather than, as with every previous Tower of Hanoi game, selecting the source and destination stacks, you first select the bar you want to move, and then the stack you want to move it to. So solving the two-bar game, involves moving bar 9 to stack 2, bar 11 to stack 3, and then bar 9 to stack 3. Why weren’t the bars numbered 1 to 5 instead of 3, 5, 7, 9, 11? Who knows. But that’s not even the worst of it. Observe the game when a few moves have been made:

Each time you make a move, Stack redraws the stacks below the old ones, but it doesn’t tell you what the numbers are. So, you’ve got to keep in mind that in this case the medium sized bar is number 9, when you want to move it. How much worse it would be with five bars.

This is a horrible design choice with really no excuse. It’s a poor decision even if you’ve never seen a Tower of Hanoi game before, but by 1985 there were plenty of better examples.

This was a type-in game in the December 1985 issue of RUN (Issue #24), and the description there is priceless. It was written, I presume, by the author of the game, and repeats how easy the game is to play, while the underlying puzzle is difficult–not quite. Best of all is the one-sentence blurb introducing Stack: “Moving a few bars from one pile to another sounds easy, until you try this game.”

Yeah, that sounds about right.


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