Stretchmo is not Pushmo,nor is it Crashmo—but it might as well be. Intelligent Systems has found a way to once again tweak the rules in a way that doesn’t improve or detract from the core appeal of their puzzle-solving experience. If you liked either of the previous games then you’ll like this one. If you played either of those games and didn’t care for it, then I feel confident that this won’t be for you either.
(But why would anyone have not liked these games? They’re great!)
The specific rule change this time around is that blocks can be stretched out for two tile lengths in any direction as long as there is no obstruction preventing them, and the stretched out extensions can in turn be stretched in other directions. This means that a single block of a puzzle can become a 5 by 5 platform by stretching it out to the maximum. The goal is, as always, to climb to the top of technicolored block structures and rescue the children on top of them.
I’ve always thought that rescuing trapped children is a little bit more severe of a crisis than these games really needed to justify the gameplay, but it certainly isn’t anything to get wound up over. The story might as well not be there so I’m not going to throw a fit about it. In Stretchmo in particular, most of the character interactions are based on the buying of game content anyway.
Which leads us to another way that this game is different but not actually different—this game is free-to-play. Well, “free-to-start” is the more accurate term Nintendo’s using. What this means is that the player can play through a tutorial to see how the game ticks before deciding whether to drop cash on it or not. The free section took me mere minutes to complete. Once the tutorial is wrapped up then the player has the option of buying levels in packs of 50 or 100 in various skill levels for various prices.
I opted for the value bundle pass that buys all 300 levels currently available in the game, it costs $10. That means I paid approximately 3.3 cents per level. If we wanted to get upset about the creep of free to play models wringing every last cent out of consumers, I suppose there’s an argument to be made here. The original Pusmo offered 252 levels for $7, which means that the value of a puzzle was only 2.8 cents. Since the levels in Stretchmo do not offer any significant upgrade over what’s been available before, this is brazen daylight robbery! This is an 18% price hike in return for no additional value!
…but I’ll leave that argument for the more easily excitable. Personally, I’m happy to pay 3.3 cents per puzzle. It also bears remembering that any levels downloaded through the level creation and sharing tools are entirely free so the game offers the ability to stretch your dollar should you feel the need.
Going into this playtest the questions that needed to be addressed were “are the new rules still fun” and “do microtransactions harm the experience”. The answers to these questions are yes and no respectively. Beyond that the only question is if you have room on your SD card for another game and room in your life for 300 more puzzles. If those answers are “yes,” I recommend Stretchmo without hesitation.
Food for thought:
1. Papa Blox is now playable straight away from the beginning of the game, he’s the avatar controlled in the high difficulty NES sprite puzzles. For no particular reason I’ve always thought Papa Blox was the coolest character in these games. Papa Blox for Smash Bros.?
2. Nintendo is still doing their thing where they have a character try to sell game content to you as opposed to just popping up a menu or eShop link. They did this in the Streetpass Plaza with a bunny and they do it here with a robot. For my money I think that the rabbit was the more persuasive salesman.