StretchBot, limber up robot – First Sip Review
StretchBot by M5 Games (who both developed and published this title). Is a retro 2D platformer starring a robot with stretchy arms.
StretchBot follows Stretch a steam-powered robot that can stretch. Stretch wakes up in a post-apocalypse ruin world that was destroyed by the evil Kid Scientist. Naturally, Kid Scientist wants more power so he’s going to mine the rest of the world regardless of the consequences. Stretch teams up with a group of environmentally friendly hackers. Collectively known as the “rebels”. And goes on a journey to increase the power of their computer to overthrow Kid Scientist.
As a retro throwback game the story is acceptable. But it really is the height of generic. It feels like so many games smashed together. Like if you made Dr. Robotnik/Eggman a child you’d have virtually the same template. In fact the game Sparklite which we covered here also used the same story. Bad guy wants to mine the world for power, however, even though it’s destroying the world and there will be nothing left to rule a hero must beat them up to stop them.
But the fact that it even bothers with a story is still admirable. Especially for a retro throwback game. And it is cohesive and easy to follow.
Again as a retro throwback game, StretchBot sticks to a 16-bit art style. Stretch is a fun character with his stretchy arms and I like the rebels’ designs. It feels like most of the rebels are probably based on real people. Perhaps the developers themselves? Backgrounds have a parallax scroll to them which is nice. Levels are pretty generic though. To the point where I start to wonder who designs a junkyard or factory with all these breakable platforms. There are a ton of things in the levels, especially the starting junkyard that looks breakable but cannot be interacted with. It’s not the worst thing but it’s pretty annoying. The levels I played were pretty short and each had a fairly distinct layout made out of the same parts. At least until the next world.
There are three worlds in total and 24 levels, so there is variety, however, not that much.
You might start to be seeing a trend here. The sound in StretchBot is…generic. The music is generic, the sound effects are generic. None of it is bad per se. But none of it stands out either. It is complete middle of the road stuff. I tried to get some of the music in my head but it just wouldn’t stick. As soon as I finished a level I would forget the tune so fast I couldn’t tell if the next level had the same music or not. There were some levels, a train one and a Boss fight that I know had different tunes. But I still couldn’t pick them out of a lineup.
There’s really not a lot more to say here. It does what it’s supposed to do and nothing more. Perhaps the later worlds might have catchy tunes, but in the first two worlds, I didn’t hear any.
The gameplay is really where it all comes down to. A fun core mechanic can elevate a game with a non-existent soundtrack. Tight controls can make up for boring, uninspired character designs. Replayability can excuse a generic story. So how is the gameplay in StretchBot? Well as you can see by the rating…it’s generic. Like pretty much every aspect of StretchBot it’s just acceptable.
As a 2D platformer, you can walk, jump and attack. You can’t really run even if you hold the button for a while so jumps are usually like you make it or you were in the wrong place, to begin with. StretchBot’s punch is adequate, it kind of lacks range considering how long his arms CAN stretch. And it lacks power too, with most enemies needing at least 2 or 3 hits to be defeated. You also have a downwards attack performed by holding down in the air. Kind of like DuckTales or I don’t know…Shovel Knight? However, it is a little more awkward to use, which I’ll get into a bit more later.
You can collect up to 3 gears a level, which are used to unlock new levels. You can also pick up scrap which can be used to buy upgrade moves. Upgrade moves generally cost water to use which can be found in levels. At the end of the levels there is a thing you can jump into to get some bonus scrap. Hitting it at the high point gives you more a la Mario.
Other than just the fact it feels like elements ripped from other games. I found StretchBot’s controls to be unresponsive at times. Weirdly swapping my Logitech controller to use the analog stick instead of the d-pad actually made it more responsive. But still not perfect. The main issue is the secondary move. To start with, you have a swinging technique on certain boxes. Then you can buy a spinning punch with extra power and decent range. Followed by a ranged attack and so on. The problem with this is that the swing move is required for some platforming sections. And there is a slight delay while you are swapping through the options. Also the more upgrades you get the more you have to swap through. It led to a few deaths.
Which leads me to my next problems. Quite a lot of the deaths I experienced felt cheap. Not like I messed up and it was on me, but that the game decided, eh, you failed here. Particularly on the first boss. I almost quit without beating it because it was so frustrating. The boss itself is easy, avoid attacks punch the eye thing when it lights up and you win. But fighting with the controls and the cheapness of the boss, your hitbox is absolute, theirs is sort of fluid. And every time you fail and do the fight again, THE SAME SCENE PLAYS. You are able to skip it, but all it skips is a line of dialogue and the boss rolling forward, it still shoots its little flame thing WHICH IS HALF THE TIME OF THE SCENE.
As harsh as some sections here might be, the game isn’t bad. It’s just very generic. The developers are obviously fans of SNES games, it just doesn’t seem like they knew how to add their own flavor to the mix. I can’t think of any one aspect of the game that stands out as being original. Even the level selection map is like a shallow Mario clone (using the same movement and nodes but no shortcuts or anything else Mario had).
If StretchBot came out during the heyday of the SNES, it probably would have been seen as a solid but still forgettable title. It’s a shame really because there have been a few really solid SNES styled games coming out since the SNES stopped production. But StretchBot just isn’t one of them. If you’re a fan of the genre you’ll likely find some enjoyment. But if you’re looking for something to really hook you, keep looking.
I’ll also mention that the game has full controller support. But the controls still show keyboard commands, which is far from helpful.
In Coffee Terms
StretchBot in coffee terms. Is bland. It’s like taking a classic blend and spending more time on choosing the right cup instead of working on the flavors. So you end up with a really watered down coffee. If you’ve been a coffee lover all your life you know what they are going for, but it’s about 40 years too late for it to be considered anything but ok.
StretchBot Review Summary
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.