268th played so far


Genre: Platform
Platform: PlayStation 2
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Treasure Co. Ltd
Publisher: Conspiracy Entertainment

First, let’s settle a few confusing bits. While we list the game as Stretch Panic above, as that’s how it’s known in the US and Japan, in Europe it was released under the name Freak Out. This not only confuses us – the writers of the book got confused as well. While it’s listed as Stretch Panic in the main work, the alphabetic index lists it as Freak Out.ย  So yeah, even we’re confused.

It’s a situation we’ve seen before – Star Fox 64 is known in the UK as Lylat Wars. It was confusing then, it still is now.

So we have been looking forward to this game for a while because of how bizarre the concept looks. You’re a girl wearing a demon scarf that allows you to stretch the environment and enemies in different directions. You do so to exercise the demons in your sisters. Yeah, freaking out about it indeed.

Our Thoughts

Sometimes, disappointment can be quite harsh. Sometimes, it just feels expected somehow. Stretch Panic was one of those games that could go anywhere, making its initially inaccessible gameplay to be expected. The game dumps you in the hub without any help, leaving it to you to figure out what to do (presumably unless you check out the manual, which wasn’t included in our second hand copy…).

I had built this game up in my head quite a bit from having read the synopsis in the book. The idea of a little girl rescuing her sisters (and a lot of them) with the help of her demonically possessed scarf. It sounded so strange an idea for a platformer that that I didn’t think we could lose. However…

The thing is that even if you get an idea of how it works, the controls are so awkward that you probably won’t get over it when playing the game. Since you have to use one thumbstick to control your character and another to control your demon scarf hand. This means you have no camera control. L2 centers the camera behind you and L1 keeps you focused on the ‘nearest’ enemy, that’s all. That ‘nearest enemy’ detection feels broken though, and is better explained as focused on some random enemy or some other part of the screen it prefers to lock onto.

Then add to that the scarf. It’s supposed to grab things so you can pull and throw them. You need to aim them, but it feels like the way you aim has nothing to do with the place your scarf actually goes to, making it quite frustrating to hit the small areas you need to get to. It’s another frustrating part.

So the controls are awful. The settings, though, is another thing that’s meant to attract, but to be honest, once we got the gist of it, it really didn’t. Your initial in-between areas require you to go to big-breasted women (‘z-cup’) and stretch any part of them that is not their breasts. This is difficult not only because of the vast size of the breasts and crappy controls but also because they are able to use their ‘voluptuous nature’ as helicopter blades should they get into trouble. The reason for this is to earn points in order to face the bosses. Making these mooks just feels juvenile and unnecessary.

The game is mostly boss fights though – you are to free your sisters who have been taken over by these demons. It’s superficially similar to Shadow of the Colossus, in that these are the focus of the game and you spend most of your time in boss fights, the points only used to unlock the doors to get to them. The game gives the bosses far less gravitas, though. They’re cartoony, but all are quite different, at least in their attacks and weak points. These weak points make the bosses more interesting, but at the same time are arbitrarily difficult to get, with some of them easier to defeat by just stretching random parts of their bodies, which damages them too and is a lot faster and easier to get to.

The best way to describe it is possibly that this is a game that tries, but doesn’t quite make it. In controls, in story, in gameplay. Add to that some thematic choices that are too juvenile to contemplate and you get a game that just isn’t worth it, no matter how much it tries to be special.

Final Thoughts

The game has some interesting ideas. The basic concept is fun and is one we’d love to see more done with, possibly with a less puerile designer. As it is though, the game plays clumsily and some of the basic concepts just didn’t sit right with us. Probably the most interesting part are the diverse boss fights, but it tends to take a bit too much time to get the concepts and figure out what to do.

The bosses are really great but it does make you wonder how someone has this many siblings… and how this one sister with the demon scarf got away from being transformed. That’s fridge logic for you.

  1. […] Freak Out (or Stretch Panic) however felt puerile and unnecessary. It wasn’t fun to play and half the game’s challenge was non-existent. Beyond that, the story was twisted and the design felt made by a thirteen year old. Without adult supervision. Not worth it. […]

  2. […] question it’s Stretch Panic. It was one of the games whose entry and picture convinced me to try this deranged assignment of a […]

  3. […] never quite sat with the memory of a game description that I would have expected to be more like Stretch Panic – a completely unrelated […]