Apparently it's been three years since I played through Pushmo World on Wii U, and I've been itching to check out the final installment in the series (thus far, anyway), called Stretchmo, on 3DS. Stretchmo (aka Fullbox) is ostensibly "free to play", but in reality it's even more limited than Mario Run; the free part is basically just a tutorial on the basic mechanics. The game is sold in pieces, but basically three of the four areas have the same gameplay, just varying levels of difficulty. The fourth is a little different as it features enemies that move around the stage, giving the game a little bit more of a platformer feel, although the emphasis is still on puzzle solving as opposed to platforming dexterity. Buying any of the four areas unlocks the workshop where you can create your own stages or scan in QR codes of other people's creations, and completing every stage in all four areas unlocks an extra 50 stages.
The core Stretchmo gameplay is a logical extension to the core Pushmo gameplay, and so is an easy recommendation for fans of any of the other games in the series. The Stretchmo gimmick is that you can pull blocks out in all four directions instead of just forward, and although that sounds like it could make things complicated, it actually works extremely well. The task of climbing to the top of each stage makes for a clear goal, and although at the highest levels of difficulty you have to view the stage from all four sides, the difficulty curve is extremely smooth. In the main mode you can skip a stage if you get stuck, whereas in the other modes you're presented with ten stages at a time and you only need to complete five of them to unlock the next batch.
The music and aesthetics are all basically the same as the previous games, but they're still charming so no complaints there. There is some significant slowdown in the larger stages, but otherwise everything controls just fine. I ended up playing all of the first area and dipped into the other parts of the game, and overall I found this to be a great continuation of the series. The gameplay is every bit as satisfying as the other games in the series, and it probably edges out Crashmo in terms of its easy to understand yet deviously mind-bending puzzles. It's hard to imagine where the series would go from here, and I would hope that this game forms the end of a trilogy (albeit a fantastic one) and that Intelligent Systems branches out more for any future games featuring Mallo and friends. In the meantime I'll definitely be returning to this game and its predecessors when I get that craving for more pushing and pulling blocks action.
Stretch your mind with these Stretchmo links:
- Awesome fan-created levels based on Super Mario 64 levels
- eShop trailer
- Review at NintendoLife