Pushmo has went from a little known puzzler to a sprawling series of titles across the 3DS and Wii U. Originally launching in 2011, it was quickly followed up by Crashmo in 2012, Pushmo World on the Wii U in 2014, and now Stretchmo in 2015. Stretchmo, like Crashmo before it, adds in a small tweak to the gameplay that ultimately creates a wholly new experience for players. Taking the basic premise of climbing a stack of blocks and stretching it (ugh, sorry) a bit, Stretchmo doesn’t quite mix things up as much as Crashmo did, but it offers a great middle ground for fans to enjoy.
The basic formula of Pushmo has remained throughout its three sequels. Your goal is always to climb up a stack of blocks by pulling, pushing, or moving them around. Pushmo simply let you pull them out a few spaces, while Crashmo had the blocks freestanding, allowing them to fall down if their support was removed. Stretchmo takes out the gravity aspect, bringing things back to the series’ roots a bit, but adds in its own flair: stretching. Players can now stretch out blocks, reshaping them a bit in order to achieve their goals. It seems like an odd addition, but in practice it functions naturally and adds just enough uniqueness to the proceedings to feel like a worthy sequel.
The best examples of this are the more three dimensional puzzles. Some blocks have different shapes on each side, allowing you to climb up as you circle around the block. Having to think in all directions is tough, but fun, and leads to some great mind-bending puzzles. Even in the simpler puzzles though, stretching in different directions allow the blocks to become more useful and harder to wrap your head around. Figuring out which blocks can be stretched and in what direction can be tough sometimes, leading to a bit of frustration. Once the ruleset is fully understood though it makes for great puzzle fun.
Stretching isn’t the only addition made to the game either, while some other gameplay tweaks have been made, such as the addition of enemies for the first time in franchise history, the pricing structure has been altered as well. Stretchmo takes the series free-to-play, in a way. While the business model might have a bad name thanks to some nefarious practices, Stretchmo is F2P done right. Players can get a quick, free taste of the game via the first seven puzzles, and if they like what they see they can purchase additional puzzles via themed packs.
The main crux of the game is contained in the Playtime Plaza, adding an additional 100 puzzles for players to enjoy for $4.99. Along with this come the Sculpture Square, Fortress of Fun, and NES Expo, all offering their own take on the Stretchmo formula. These smaller packs give player 50 additional puzzles for $2.99 each. However, players can buy all four packs, adding 250 puzzles to their game, for $9.99. For those that don’t enjoy free-to-play at all, they can simply plunk down their $10 and never have to worry about pricing again, while others can pick and choose which packs work for them.
Each puzzle pack offers its own take on the Strechmo formula, with one offering interesting visual puzzles, the other featuring more challenge, and the NES Expo offering a bit of nostalgia. They all range in level of difficulty with the Playtime Plaza being the easiest, and Fortress of Fun and NES Expo having the more challenge to them. The Fortress of Fun actually adds in what will likely be the most interesting new element beyond stretching, the aforementioned enemies. They don’t really present much of a challenge, simply charging of falling on you at various times, but the mobility they offer, and the different way you have to think about maneuvering them give players a great new element to mess around with.
One issue does crop up due to this new model however. No matter how experienced you are with the game, it always assumes that your first time playing through one of the puzzle packs is your first time with the game. This means that you will essentially get the same tutorial upwards of three or four times. Each area starts simply and ramps up the challenge, adding in new puzzle elements along the way. Unfortunately, this means you have to trudge through extremely simple puzzles to start each new pack before getting to the more rewarding challenges later on.
Once you do though, those challenges are extremely fun and will be enjoyed by any Pushmo or Crashmo fans. The stretching mechanic begins getting used quite effectively, allowing for some truly brain busting puzzles. Even veterans of the series will easily find themselves stumped on occasion, with the answer tantalizingly lingering just out of reach. If you truly get stuck you can always skip the puzzle and move on, coming back with a fresh set of eyes will usually yield the best results.
Finally, Stretchmo adds the prerequisite custom map creator in the Creation Studio. Here you can build your own puzzles for other players to try by sharing a QR code. It isn’t as robust as the offering was in Pushmo World on Wii U, but it is still great to have nonetheless. The feature unlocks after making a single purchase, but each element you can add only becomes available once you encounter it in the game. This means you’ll have to buy multiple packs to really get the most out of the Creation Studio, which isn’t all that unfortunate given the quality of the packs themselves.
Stretchmo doesn’t reinvent the puzzle genre, or the series in which it exists, but it expands and evolves it in fresh and interesting ways. Fans of the series will find a lot to love about Stretchmo, with its new mechanics bringing a lot of life to the games. Puzzle fans might have trouble slogging through the multiple tutorials, but once they do they will find a fun and challenging experience waiting.
- Available On: Nintendo 3DS
- Published By: Nintendo
- Developed By: Intelligent Systems
- Genre: Puzzle
- US Release Date: May 14th, 2015
- Reviewed On: New Nintendo 3DS
- Quote: "Stretchmo doesn't reinvent the puzzle genre, or the series in which it exists, but it expands and evolves it in fresh and interesting ways."
- Same great puzzle fun
- Stretching mechanic adds a lot to the gameplay
- Free-to-play done right
- Too many tutorials
- Early levels are slow and easy