Stretched [99¢] is a new physics-based slingshot-platformer from Chillingo, which has been receiving praise in our discussion thread. The objective is to fling a ball between various slingshots, collecting as many bubbles from each level as possible, before reaching the exit portal. There's no time limit or restriction on the number of turns, so there's no hurry, but each time you fling yourself you need to land safely, as there's no ground or safety net.
The best feature of Stretched is that new gameplay elements are constantly being introduced as you progress through the 80+ levels and 4 worlds (Sunrise, Monochrome, Misty and Desert). Each world has it's own features and music and it's often a pleasant surprise to discover what comes next.
Initially you're propelling yourself between slingshots of various sizes and orientations, or bouncing off walls. But that's just the start. You'll manipulate chains and sliders, use a sticky green character to your advantage by sticking to walls, explode bombs to blast yourself across the level or to move obstacles, turn wheels with your finger to rotate items and encounter various moving contraptions to master. Some levels challenge you to balance the ball precariously on the end of a stick, while also collecting bubbles! There's a surprising amount of variety in this game (more than I've described here) and each new feature is carefully explained when it first appears.
The touch controls are simple and effective: Use your finger to stretch back the slingshot and determine the direction and power of the shot (the slingshots fire in either direction). A series of dots shows the trajectory path, for aiming purposes. Once you release your finger, the ball is propelled in the chosen direction. If you're attached to a sticky green character, you can tap it to make it disappear. Or tap a bomb to make it explode.
Your score is based on the number of bubbles collected before reaching the exit portal. Collecting over half of the bubbles earns 2-stars, while you must grab all the bubbles to 3-star the level. High scores and achievements are all managed via Chillingo's Crystal and Game Center.
A "skip level" option is available and there appears to be no limit to how many times you can use it, as I skipped several levels in a row. However, a certain number of stars is required to unlock each subsequent world and skipping levels doesn't earn any stars, so there's some incentive to actually play through the levels. An In-App Purchase can be made to unlock all levels, although there's really no need.
Stretched was released without much fanfare, so it's quite a pleasant surprise. The bubble graphics are not overly impressive, so the screenshots don't look too flashy, but don't judge this game by it's screenshots alone as the variety of gameplay is excellent. The puzzles are interesting and varied, rather than intellectually complex, and the various soundtracks sound good without feeling repetitive. You'll get a few hours entertainment for a dollar, with more levels promised in the future, making this an easy game to recommend.
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