"Stretchmo" Offers Fun Puzzles, But Limits Itself With Microtransactions
Developer: Intelligent Systems Publisher: Nintendo Platform: Nintendo 3DS (eShop exclusive) Price: free ($9.99 for the full experience) ESRB Rating: E
Free has never been free. Nowhere has this been more true than the world of gaming.
By far not the most abusive of the free-to-play trend, "Stretchmo" offers a complete, challenging puzzle experience for the 3DS, though its lack of up-frontness about its price tag does hurt it credibility a bit. Returning from previous "Pushmo" titles is Mallow, the cute and cuddly protagonist of the block pushing title. Accompanying him are Poppy, Corin, and Papa, who all more or less manage their own parks.
What differentiates this titles from other "Pushmo" games is the ability to stretch blocks, a mechanic that does add a level of depth to the puzzles, but is never fully taken advantage in the game. Despite featuring 3D plane, a high emphasis is placed on only the front blocks, with the stretch feature often relegated to solving momentary throw-away obstacles rather than having the puzzle built around it. "Stretchmo" still offers some fantastic puzzles, but I wish the developers went a step further to take advantage of the 3D plane.
The game also boasts variety via the pay wall sections (this will be Mallo, Poppy, Corin, and Papa's parks) by sectioning off different kinds of Stretchmo, which I find to be unfortunate, as the mechanics featured in each park are seldom intertwined. Poppy and Papa's parks have a high emphasis on 3D sculptures, with Papa featuring classic Nintendo sprites, while Corin's gimmick is the inclusion of enemies. Mallo includes 100 Stretchmo for $4.99, with the last three going on sale for $2.99 each with 50 Stretchmo, though everything can be purchased for $9.99 at a discount.
Perhaps the most problematic of the parks is Corin's, as the inclusion of enemies thrusts platforming elements into a game that isn't prepared for it. All enemies follow a set pattern, much like an old Nintendo game, and as such, Corin's Stretchmo require precision. This can be extremely difficult, especially when considering Corin essentially has one jump that's not very effective, and the 3D puzzle elements often confuse the platformer ones. Perhaps the biggest sin is the momentary pause animation that takes place whenever the player goes near a ledge. It is a tragedy that this carried over from the other game modes, as it not only detracts from the gameplay, but makes many of Corin's puzzles seem unnecessarily cheap. Perhaps if Corin had a different control scheme or didn't die in one hit, his park would be more enjoyable.
My favorite of the packs has to be "Papa's NES Expo," as it displays elements taught in "Mallo's Playtime Plaza," and "Poppy's Sculpture Square," but at a much higher level. Every Expo Strechmo completed feels like an accomplishment, as there is rarely an obvious solution to the Nintendo sprites.
Unsurprisingly the most fun I had was with Mallo's park, and this might also be true of many casual gamers and players new to the series who check this game out. A step up from the free levels, Mallo's park also includes the most Stretchmo, all relatively easy to solve. If you could only buy one park, I'd recommend this one.
In addition, a bonus park labeled "The Perilous Peak" becomes unlocked after the completion of one park, with sections added to it as you beat the game. If you fall in love with "Stretchmo," this adds great value to your money, and is just a nice addition to a free-to-play game, as many others would charge for this.
Nintendo's official trailer for the game.
Where this game really shines is the creation studio, as it allows the player to combine all elements of the game's parks as they see fit. The major downside of this is that the only way of sharing your creations is to manually swap obligatory QR codes. In wake of "Super Mario Maker," which will allow online level sharing, it's a shame that "Stretchmo" went this route.
For $9.99, "Stretchmo" offers great value for money, though I'm not a fan of the game's free-to-play model. The parks aren't perfect, but they offer enough charm and challenge to make the game worthwhile. Though the game sports innovations such as enemies and the ability to stretch blocks, it will be a while before it showcases the polish present in other Nintendo titles.