Stretch Panic is a quirky little (and when I say little, I mean little) game where you play as Linda, a young girl, who becomes trapped in a different world and has to save her 12 sisters from the "clutches of the demons of vanity." To help her, she has a possessed scarf that her father gave her, which is able to stretch and manipulate basically anything that you can touch in the game. Enemies, trees, the ground, the wall, you name it and it can be stretched. This is where the game gets its innovation. It's an extremely interesting concept, but the game just doesn't justify it like it should. Don't get me wrong, it is a good game for what it is; it just should be so much more.
I'll get a bit more into the length of the game, and it is awfully short. At the title screen, you are greeted with a "Stretch Panic!" and probably the best music from the game. When you start a new game, you watch the opening sequence. During the opening, it's much like a comic, where there are panels which have text for all the sound effects. Linda's walking down a street with a bunch of presents in her stacked up in her hands, then a truck rushes past her (knocking down all her presents) and delivers a strange box to her house, and all her sisters open it up and get sucked into the box. Linda is the last one, and she goes in to look for her sisters. The effects of the room which you are transported to, the Museum of Agony, are very cool; everything is in black and white and everything has a pencil shading texture to it. This and the opening sequence alone got me psyched up for the game. But then I soon realized that I had no idea what to do. I walked around and button mashed for a bit figuring out what each button did. I had to read the manual multiple times and still I had to find out what to do myself. Thanks a lot Treasure, for your wonderful tutorial on how to play the game.
After messing around with the controls and using gamer's intuition, I finally found out that I had to have 'points' to open the doors with numbers on them. To get said points I had to go into the EX doors and do something truly unique that I have never experienced in any game ever (except maybe a hentai sim, but I have yet to really play any of those). I had to use my magical scarf and pinch the gluteus maximus of dramatically oversized breasted women. Yes, you read this correctly. There are a bunch of women with size omega Z breasts wondering around, and to get points you have to squeeze their butts. Either Treasure has a really unique sense of humor, or they are a crew of crazy, deranged people. But these aren't the only interesting character designs. Each of the sisters live in a room and all their bodies are transformed to really unique... creatures. Basically, creativity is where Stretch Panic shines.
Once you get enough points you can open the doors to your sisters' worlds. You'll find that all your sisters have been transformed into monsters by the magical powers of the box. Once you open the door, you see a short sequence in which one of your sisters is being transformed. Then, the end product appears, and you have to defeat it to change your sister back. You do this by using your exorcizing move during the battle (which really makes the fight so much simpler, it's kind of pathetic). All of the sisters change into something depending on their interests and personalities. You have Cinder, your hugely headed sister (like Linda's wasn't big enough) who breathes fire; Spinner, your sister who loves athletics and outdoors and turns into... a pickaxe; Miss Mecha, a giant mech; Siren, who transforms from an angel to a devil; Fay Soff, who also has a huge head, and you can rearrange her facial features; Anne Droid V2.1, a satellite on a small planet; Jelly-Chan, who like her name implies, is made of jelly; Demonica, who is so incredibly scary that if you see her you will basically have a heart attack and die; Samantha, who has a toy fish attached to her hand and vomits her body weight EVERY TIME you attack her weak spot; Cyan, a huge alien which you need to help little space invaders to beat her; Mirage, a butterfly mummy who flies in the sky and turns to stone when she touches water; and finally Spirit, a princess who has really long arms and can stretch them like Linda's scarf, and can pull out totems from the ground. Exorcising a sister will reveal what the sister actually looks like. They're either a morbidly obese girl, a bulimicly skinny girl, or a vertically challenged girl with elephantitis of the head (like Linda herself). Like I said, the character designs are really interesting and unique, even if a little odd. But that's what makes them so good.
The graphics are nice. Really, they're nothing too special compared to games these days, but what do you expect a game from 2001 to be like? But despite being such an old game, the graphics are well done and really add to the effect of the game being creative. They're pretty 'dark' for the most part and that kind of adds to a sense of... well... darkness. The worlds are pretty basic but the details on the characters are nice. The little design on Linda's scarf is pretty cool to look at and some of the sisters are very nicely done. There is also a place where you can go to by head-butting the bell in the middle of the Museum, called the Gallery of Shame. Every time you exorcise a sister, they are brought here, and you can manipulate their bodies and also give them different textures so they look different. A really neat addition, however it doesn't really add anything to the game. Think of the graphics and character designs a bit like Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas kind of style.
When it comes to sound, it really gets the job done. Some of the music is very well done and very catchy, IE the opening theme. Unfortunately there's a lot that's very forgettable too. But most of it is pretty good, even though you'll probably only hear it for a couple minutes and never again in your life. The sound effects are basic, pinching, hitting, crashing, and a ding when you get a point for attacking a weak point for massive damage. There's also voice work, but like the sound effects, it's pretty basic. Linda has a few lines, like "Oomph!", "All right!", and "Get Funky!" The sisters have minimal voice work; they're all different, but what they say is pretty much the same thing every time. Either a creepy little girl laugh, a malevolent laugh, or a "Dammit!" At least that's what I think they're saying.
But enough on all that; game play is what can make or break a game, and unfortunately for Stretch Panic, the game play could and should be much better. First and foremost, using her scarf, the most innovative part of the game, is more of a task than fun. You must first hold R1 to start using the scarf, and then you use the right analog stick to move it. Basic, right? Wrong. The scarf can only go so far, which isn't so bad, but it always goes that far. This is a pain because not only do you not have complete control of it, but if you want to pick up something right in front of you, it will be extremely difficult. Many times I had to try this a couple times before I finally got what I was aiming for, despite it being right in front of me. However, this also goes for anything you're aiming for. Since you can grab anything and everything, you'll be finding yourself grabbing the wall, or the floor, or some other object that you don't want instead of what you do want. Which sucks, especially when you need to pick stuff up quick (IE, Cyan's battle). Add this in with a horrible camera, and you've got a whole mess of confusion. The camera tends to spin out and lose control of Linda. There is a lock-on feature however you have to hold the button down and still it doesn't guarantee that you will grab anything. It only guarantees that you will lose track of where Linda is and where she's going. Another pain.
Despite this, Linda has some cool moves that she does using the scarf. Obviously the most basic is just grabbing the object. This does damage to all enemies even if you just grab and let go; sort of like a pinching attack. Another thing she does is if you grab and hold on to something, and rotate the right analog stick, she does a spinning head-butt attack. If you grab onto something you can push the R3 button and she'll do a flip. This is her only method of jumping, but you don't really jump that much anyway, and I guess it's understandable, considering she has a humongous head that's probably hard enough for her body to support, let alone jump. She can also throw bombs, which is pretty useless considering they're only in about two of the levels, and lastly, she can exorcise her sisters by sending out two additional hands to grab onto them. Then you wiggle the analog sticks around doing even more massive damage, and if done correctly, a little demon should fly out and follow you for the rest of the fight.
Another thing: Linda moves slow. Very slow. Too slow. It's very troublesome because if you don't move quickly, you're going to get hit, so if the camera loses control of Linda, and then something comes right at you and you barely have a second to avoid it, getting hit is inevitable. Luckily, none of the sisters are too hard. You'll hardly find yourself dying, as long as you find out the sisters' patterns and can find their weak points. Each sister has a weak spot that you have to find and then take advantage of, allowing you to deal MASSIVE damage. Most of them are pretty basic, and then others are more luck than skill. The instruction manual gives you hints on how to beat each of the sisters, but hey, who reads the manual. The fights are relatively short; you'll be finished within a couple of minutes as long as you can find the weak spot and also use your exorcising attack at least once. Some of the fights are pretty cool; when you fight Fay Soff, everything on her face falls off and you can put them back on wherever you want. Fighting Cyan requires you to pick up little space invader guys that are attacked by Cyan, and only if they are all up and mobile can you attack Cyan yourself. And then there's Samantha, who like I said, after being attacked on her weak spot vomits her body weight every time. Mmm, yummy.
Probably the biggest let-down of the game is the length. I managed to snag the game for 2 bucks, but I can't imagine people who actually bought the game at retail price would be very happy with their purchase. The game took me about an hour and a half. AN HOUR AND A HALF. That's probably one of the shortest games I have ever played. Actually, I beat it twice, because the first time I had no idea I was supposed to exorcise your sisters (thanks again, Treasure).
Summary: No tutorial on how to play the game, so you basically have to button mash or read the manual. Graphics are good for their time but could be better. There are some really nice effects, such as the pencil shading and also the mirroring from the Gallery of Shame. The characters are nicely done and are very quirky in design, which really adds to the mood of the game. The sound is good and there are some select songs that are worth listening to. Others are pretty dull and forgettable. Voice work is repetitive and not the best on the ears. Controls are wonky and should be much better and fluid. Camera is awful and only adds to the trouble. Often you will find yourself getting lost because of the camera. Extremely short game; probably one of the shortest I have played. Avoid unless you can get it cheaply. Virtually no replay value unless you for some reason want to fight all your sisters again, but really there's no reason to.
Overall, it was a good game. I'm not going to lie; I'm glad I bought it and beat it, even if it was incredibly short. I can't say I loved every moment of it, but it did have some good moments. The scarf grabbing system is very innovative and interesting; it's just not as perfect as it should be, and it really took away from the fun. Everything about the game was good except for the controls and the length. If only they developed it a little longer, they could have fixed the controls and the camera, and made it a full fledged game.