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REVIEW: ‘Mo puzzles for your 3DS

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N3DS_Stretchmo_artwork_01

  • Nintendo 3DS / Rated E / $9.99 for all packs / released May 2015
  • OFFICIAL SITE: stretchmo.nintendo.com
  • PURCHASE LINK: eShop
  • FINAL: You WANT this game. 4 out of 5 stars

Stretchmo” is Nintendo’s latest entry in a puzzle game series that seems to have made a habit of flying under the radar. Preceded by “Pullmo” and “Crashmo,” “Stretchmo” again brings in an adorable cast of sumo marshmallow cats (?) to present a series of challenging puzzles where the goal is to climb from the base of the structure to a flag hidden somewhere near the top. “Stretchmo” is a perfect fit for a portable like the Nintendo 3DS, where it takes the easy-to-play lessons of mobile gaming and injects that signature Nintendo charm.

The best way to walk into “Stretchmo” is to think of it as a three-dimensional experiment in creating staircases. You can only jump up one step at a time, and you must work out how to stretch the provided blocks to form those steps. As the blocks can be in an any manner of funky shapes, and you are limited in how far you can pull blocks around, the solution is never as simple as “just make a boxy pyramid.”

The game’s first section features 100 puzzles that slowly introduce new complications and teach you the game’s in’s and out’s. “Stretchmo” offers three additional packs that each add another 50 themed puzzles. One of the puzzle packs features levels based on classic Nintendo video game designs from the 1980s, turning nostalgia into pixelized brainteasers. “Stretchmo” is free to download, but if you do not purchase any of these four packs, you can only play a couple of threadbare tutorial levels. While this free option may give you a tiny taste of how the game works, it is laughable to think of the free download as a free demo. The free download should have included three to five actual puzzles to really illustrate the game’s depth.

Stretchmo” offers several options for purchasing the puzzle packs, but the least expensive version is $9.99 for all four. Buying any puzzle pack unlocks Stretchmo Studio, where you can create your own puzzles. As you play more levels, new features are added to the Studio, like stickers you can use to decorate your puzzle designs. Your custom puzzles can be shared with friends via the almost-quaint method of QR codes. QR codes are saved to your 3DS as an image which you could then post online or to Nintendo’s own social platform, Miiverse.

Stretchmo” encourages trial and error; there’s no “move counter” or punishment for giving up. You may “rewind time” to undo any useless moves, however you can only rewind so far. It is a little disappointing that only the first puzzle pack lets you skip a toughie to instead have a go at the next one. The other packs’ puzzles must be completed in sequence with no skipping allowed.

Even more so than in previous “-mo” games, solving a “Stretchmo” challenge requires some serious spatial thinking. You can stretch puzzles in four directions, potentially turning any 1×1 block into a 5×5 flat surface. Other blocks get in the way, naturally, and unusually-shaped blocks turn into confounding blobs when stretched. The trick is to think in three dimensions, hop that little cat thing all over the place, and stretch your mind.

This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. Image courtesy Nintendo of America.