When it comes to puzzle platformers, you can trust Nintendo to provide hours of fun. Stretchmo is a sequel to Pushmo that came out of nowhere, but does it live up to the high standards set by previous installments? Of course it does, so let's push on with this review.
Stretchmo is free when you first download it. You get to play through a handful of tutorial puzzles that actually don't do a good job of showing what's in store when you purchase the full game. You can buy up to four themed areas separately or at once for a discounted price. If you're a fan of Pushmo then buying the whole package is a no-brainer. Stretchmo is played almost identically to how you would expect it to, but there's one twist that makes all the difference. Instead of just pushing and pulling back and forth from an initially 2D puzzle, you can now push and pull from the sides of blocks as well. Also, puzzles can now begin as 3D models which add even more welcome complexity to the previously established formula. I must say that this is a fantastic way to reinvigorate the series. I can't wait to see what the next game has up its sleeve.
I don't know how they managed to do it, but Stretchmo is even cuter than other games in the series. As you traverse the park, various robots that represent each area show you the ropes. They each have their own personality as they teach you the tricks of the trade and get into all sorts of trouble. As a grown man, it's odd to say but I can't believe how adorable they are. I would even buy toys of them if Nintendo sold them. As with the other games, puzzles look sharp and you can freely rotate and zoom the camera to assist you with your plan for success. That being said, jumping around corners and in tight spots can still be a frustrating experience, but you can rewind time if you mess up. The included music is composed of the lighthearted orchestral flair that you're used to while sound effects offer even more frivolity to the equation. Overall, how can anyone not fall in love with something so uniquely charming on every level?
Each of the four purchasable areas of Stretchmo allows you to play as different characters. Mallo stars in the Playtime Plaza portion which includes 100 puzzles where he saves children from structures that a robot gone haywire accidentally trapped. This is a great reason to bring about the classic Pushmo formula. The other three zones feature 50 puzzles each and consist of Sculpture Square filled with artistic puzzles starring Poppy, Corin's Fortress of Fun which has a higher difficulty and features enemies, and the NES Expo with Papa Blox that contains nothing but reinterpretations of classic Nintendo sprites. Of course, you can always just buy what you want, but the amount of diversity and content that's readily available if you decide to buy the whole kit and caboodle is definitely worth every penny. It should be mentioned that just like in previous Pushmo games, there isn't any incentive to replay puzzles. There is no record of how much time or how many moves each one took you, so simply beating a puzzle means that you're pretty much done with it forever. It would be awesome if future installments included replay value in this form since it would add hours of enjoyment for puzzle platform enthusiasts.
As you work your way through puzzles, you'll unlock a ton of content that you can use to create and share your own puzzles in Stretchmo Studio. In the three non-Mallo areas, the puzzles are broken up into sections of ten. You can advance to the next section after completing five puzzles, but if you beat all ten then you get stickers that you can decorate your own creations with. Also, simply experiencing a new mechanic will unlock it in the level editor. Therefore, after playing for a while, you'll eventually be able to create 3D puzzles and apply mechanics such as manholes, pullout switches, and enemy spawn spots. If you're artistic enough, you can even apply Nintendo-themed stickers to the side of your puzzle to create classic game scenes. When you're done, you can share it with the world via QR code. Maybe I'll get to play one of your inventive creations soon! I'm looking forward to it.
Although Stretchmo may intimidate some gamers with its perceived free-to-play model, it is without a doubt a top of the line puzzle platformer that surely won't disappoint. With oodles of puzzles that offer plenty of variety, new characters in a fresh-faced world, and expansive gameplay mechanics, Stretchmo delivers the next iteration of the series in a truly inventive and refreshing way.
- + New gameplay mechanics improve upon the already incredible puzzle platform formula
- + Manages to be even cuter than before
- + Plenty of diverse puzzles to work through
- - Still no replay incentives for individual puzzles
- - Precise jumps are as annoying as ever