"Many people aren’t even aware that a company named Treasure exists, but its unique, refreshing games have garnered a small but fervent fanbase. The name Treasure is appropriate, because most of their games are just that—offbeat gems that too few experience. Games like Mischief Makers, Gunstar Heroes, and Radiant Silvergun are revered by some, but unknown to many. "
Many people aren’t even aware that a company named Treasure exists, but its unique, refreshing games have garnered a small but fervent fanbase. The name Treasure is appropriate, because most of their games are just that—offbeat gems that too few experience. Games like Mischief Makers, Gunstar Heroes, and Radiant Silvergun are revered by some, but unknown to many.
Stretch Panic is a Treasure title that is probably better off far below the radar. It lacks neither originality nor quirkiness, but it sorely fails to execute.
The game begins with an incomprehensible comic book style intro. Read the instruction manual you'll have some idea of what's going on. Linda is the heroine, an adorable ragamuffin with twelve older sisters. These narcissistic siblings are boss Linda around and berate her lack of fashion sense. They are especially fond of mocking Linda's ratty green scarf, a treasured gift from her father.
With efficient irony, the sisters are kidnapped by the demons of vanity. These imps possess the vain group, transforming them into their supposed ideal of beauty. Oddly enough, all of the sisters envision beauty as some kind of large monster. A more benevolent demon finds its way into Linda’s neckwear, granting the scarf the ability to stretch any object. Linda decides to put her new powers to work and hunts her sisters down, arriving in a pencil-drawn, black and white area known as The Museum of Agony. This is the hub of Stretch Panic, containing doors leading to each of the twelve sisters.
The mechanics are simple but potentially ingenious—Linda attacks using her scarf, stretching enemies and then letting go so that their skin snaps back. The control scheme is unorthodox but intuitive. The face buttons are barely used; instead, the left analog stick is used to move Linda, and the right analog stick is used to aim the scarf. The R1 and L1 buttons extend the scarf and lock on to enemies, respectively, and pressing down both analog sticks will initiate the godly “scarf bomb attack,” which inflicts gratuitous amounts of damage and exorcises the demons of vanity from Linda’s sisters. In fact, the scarf bomb attack is so powerful, that it renders the boss battles simplistic.
Each sister is cleverly designed and has her own special weakness, but it’s not necessary to figure it out. Just mash down the analog sticks a few times, and the battle should be over before you know it.
The only thing that limits the use of this near unbeatable attack is points. Linda gets these points in areas called “EX Stages,” which are populated exclusively by “Bonitas,” dastardly females who are very *ahem* well-endowed. Fighting them soon becomes horribly repetitive, especially since they just sort of amble about waiting for you to play with their gargantuan breasts (not fun, I promise). Since each sister is a one or two minute boss battle, even if you spend ample time in the Ex-Stages, Stretch Panic is still a two-hour game.
There are other unsavory problems: the camera is often fussy, refusing to rotate and getting stuck on various objects; Linda moves very slowly, and it’s often hard to keep her going in a straight line; even walking across a narrow walkway is a pain; aiming and manipulating the scarf is too imprecise--trying to grab key objects, which are often specific and tiny, almost always ends in frustration.
And Stretch Panic’s “Stretchtisity” technology is sorely underused. What’s the point of busting out a nice little innovation if you don't employ it with at least some degree of care and forethought? While it is possible to deform and extend all of Linda’s surroundings, there’s little point to it. Attacking enemies in a new way is mildly refreshing and fun, but besides using the scarf to jump to higher platforms, all this stretching is put to minimal creative use.
The one area where Stretch Panic does excel is stylistically. Character design is just fantastic, and the use of color and wild visual effects are pulled off with style to spare. But even here, the bland backgrounds and environments indicate a half-hearted effort.
Simply put, Stretch Panic lacks polish, and, more importantly, any meat for players to sink their teeth into. There's just not much here to savor.
Community review by careless_whisper (May 13, 2005)
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