Review: Stretchmo (3DS)

Nintendo brings Mallo back for another take on puzzle-platforming!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 05/22/2015 07:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Fresh twist on the Pushmo formula; Solid presentation, especially in the NES Expo and Sculpture Square; Tons of replay value; Puzzle creation and sharing is easy and intuitive
Poison Mushroom for...
Some of the tougher puzzles become overly grating; Tutorials can't be skipped for veteran players

Nintendo’s continued experimentation with non-traditional pay models has proven to be hit or miss so far. Though generally universally derided, Nintendo has taken a couple of different approaches with free-to-play in a bid to be competitive with some of the mobile titles that have been using it to pull in huge sales. Some games, like Pokemon Shuffle, have a more Candy Crush-esque monetization approach, granting fans limited tries or lives with a mandatory waiting period before being able to play again– unless they’re willing to fork over more cash to keep playing without interruption, of course. I tend to dislike that style of free-to-play, as it can kill momentum and is too aggressively greedy. The other way that Nintendo has implemented free-to-play is much more agreeable, as seen in Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball. In that title, players are given trial versions of its various baseball games, and can choose to buy whichever ones they like. This is much more reasonable, especially because it doesn’t require constant injections of cash to keep playing and progressing.

Thankfully Stretchmo, the latest puzzle-platformer from the team behind Pushmo and Crashmo, employs a pay model similar to Rusty’s, which allows players to choose which of its various puzzle packs to purchase. The game is a free download that includes the first seven introductory puzzles (dubbed the Welcome Center). There’s little challenge to all but the last two puzzles, but they’re a handy way to learn the basic mechanics of the game and can be replayed. Once completed, Stretchmo offers a number of different bundles for its four available puzzle packs, or they can be purchased individually. Keep in mind, I don’t review a game based on how much it costs, but I know a lot of readers out there are cautious about free-to-play titles, so I want to put them at ease by saying Stretchmo is very fairly priced. I bought all four packs at once and it only cost me $10 (which is the most economical option), but it will cost significantly less for those only interested in one or two. There are different combos to choose from, so find the one that works for you!

As with previous entries in the thematically-linked series, Stretchmo’s titular puzzle blocks must be manipulated so that the hero Mallo can climb them to reach the goal. Stretchmo is presented as though it’s taking place in an amusement park (called Stretchmo Land, of course!), with the downloadable puzzle packs being broken into four different attractions. Mallo’s Playtime Plaza, Poppy’s Sculpture Square, Corin’s Fortress of Fun, and Papa Blox’s NES Expo form the quartet, with each one gradually increasing in difficulty (from low to high as I’ve listed them here). Playtime Plaza is the least mentally taxing and a great starting point for new players. NES Expo is my favorite, as it takes advantage of the retro aesthetic that the Stretchmo blocks lend themselves so well to, recreating a number of classic and obscure characters in their 8-bit glory. Fortress of Fun is refreshing because it introduces hazards, injecting a sense of urgency and caution into the otherwise docile game. As for Sculpture Square, well, who could resist gorgeously pixelated puzzles modeled after animals and random items?

Stretchmo has much more in common with Pushmo than Crashmo in terms of gameplay. The game’s puzzle blocks can be dragged backward and forward, but what makes Stretchmo different than Pushmo is that its malleable pieces can also be pulled to the left and the right. Or, to put it more simply… they can stretch! That might not seem like such a big deal, and with two iterations of Pushmo across 3DS and Wii U some may wonder how much more mileage Nintendo can get out of the concept at this point. As it so happens, the addition of stretching to the formula has extended (a pun!) the longevity of Nintendo’s quirky puzzle series quite a bit. Being able to pull the Stretchmo blocks in four different directions opens another dimension of complexity to the puzzles that left me pleasantly scratching my head more than once, only to realize I had to approach them from angles I hadn’t in previous games. This is especially true of the 3D Stretchmo, which are large and multilayered challenges that are as much a spectacle as a test for ardent players. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of working out the mysteries of an especially perplexing Stretchmo, but the 3D ones are even more special.

It wouldn’t be a Mallo adventure without a generous creation feature in tow, and Stretchmo doesn’t disappoint. Fans with an itch to design their own puzzles are given a bevy of options to choose from, which they can then share with users via QR codes. The amount of puzzles that can be churned out is limited only to the number of ideas that users can come up with, which means fans can look forward to a lot of new content for quite a while to come (if enough people buy the game, of course). The tools for making Stretchmo are easy to learn and use, which is totally a plus for first-timers. The aforementioned 3D Stretchmo can also be created, which is a solid inclusion on Nintendo’s part. Whether inclined to create or consume (or both), Stretchmo will be keeping players coming back to it for quite a while even after the main four puzzle packs are completed.

Stretchmo isn’t without some flaws, though they’re nothing that break the game. A few of the more elaborate puzzles are almost unreasonably taxing, pushing patience levels to the max. I countered this by pacing myself and not turning the experience into a grind, but I couldn’t help but think that maybe some restraint on the part of the developers could have lessened my headache. That said, what I found difficult others might find a breeze, so take my consternation with a grain of salt. Frustration with the game’s hand-holding is something that I think more players will be able to identify with, as it can be irritating having to wade through explanatory text without even a hint of an option to speed through or skip it all entirely. Much of the gameplay concepts presented in Stretchmo have been carried over between each entry in the thematically-linked series, and as a veteran of the previous three I really didn’t need to have every detail explained to me all over again. I appreciate Nintendo’s dedication to accessibility, but it should work for both new and seasoned players, not just the former. Giving longtime players the chance to push forward without guidance, or more limited guidance, would be greatly appreciated. Bear in mind, Stretchmo doesn’t drone on with tutorials incessantly, but what’s there can still become obnoxious over time.

Nintendo could easily have churned out a watered down version of Pushmo with nauseating, endless micro-transactions, but instead the company has delivered yet another twist on that title’s basic premise at a reasonable price of admission. The pay model is fair and flexible, the gameplay feels refreshed and is highly addictive, and it’s clear that Mallow and his companions will be part of the Nintendo family for many years to come. Another smash 3DS eShop volley from the House of Mario, and reason once more to get puzzle solving. I also can’t recommend enough that anyone who downloads Stretchmo would do well to give Pushmo and Crashmo a look, too. The games are very similar, but offer their own unique tweaks to the controls found in Stretchmo and are equally wonderful additions to any gaming library. Nintendo thinks so too, as there are tabs to learn about both games right on the start screen! Get to stretching folks– it’s a winner.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In 0 points Log in or register to grow your Ninja Score while interacting with our site.
Nintendojo's RSS Feeds

All Updates Podcast
News Comments
Like and follow usFacebookTwitter Friend Code Exchange + Game with Us Join the Team!