Hands-OnStretch Panic

Conspiracy is bringing Treasure's latest game, Stretch Panic to the US. Featuring an evil scarf and 13 demonically possessed sisters, the words "bizarre" and "wacky" can't begin to describe the game.

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Conspiracy Games must have really liked what it saw when it licensed Treasure's Bangai-O, as the company is also bringing Treasure's next game, Stretch Panic for the PlayStation 2, to North America. The game is scheduled for a late winter release but may hit in early 2002.

The story of Stretch Panic focuses on Linda, one of 13 sisters, all of whom have been possessed by demons. In a wild twist, as is apt in Treasure's games, all of Linda's sisters are turned into disfigured and ghastly doll-like creatures. Linda herself is saved from certain doom by the fact that the demon attempting to subvert her was very dumb and possessed her scarf instead! Now Linda must use the possessed scarf to free her siblings from their own demonic possessions.

When it comes to gameplay and control, Treasure is innovative once again, creating a character who can stretch, slap, and contort her environment with the aid of her possessed scarf. The game eschews Treasure's usual restricted, on-rails movement for a fully traversable 3D environment. As you walk over green hills and through haunted fields, Linda's scarf can do a number of amazing things. You can stretch enemies and snap them back into themselves like rubbers bands. Similarly, you can pick up and throw rocks and smaller enemies at boss characters. There are even times when you can bend and pull walls, bridges, and buildings toward you to gain access to new areas, shield yourself from danger, or create catapults and other such items.

Reminiscent to Dynamite Headdy in terms of looks, Stretch Panic is both cute and disturbing at the same time. Every character in the game has a huge head and body, but tiny limbs, as well as a corresponding terrified expression. Stretch Panic's character models aren't as smooth as you would expect from your typical PlayStation 2 game, but the excess has been thrown into detail and objects, as opposed to characters and backgrounds. As such, there's a lot to interact with and a lot going on onscreen, despite the jagged and coarse polygonal models.

Another neat gameplay aspect interacts with the game's visual execution in that you can use the scarf to form patterns or tie knots. Boss characters, of which there are many, often require specific patterns of Linda's scarf to defeat. To create these patterns, you must use the analog stick to swirl the scarf in a number of directions while avoiding enemy attacks.

As is common in Treasure's games, the boss characters in Stretch Panic will all feature multiple forms. Each of the 12 other possessed sisters will go through multiple transformations before attaining freedom. For example, the first sister appears as a gnarled Barbie doll-like creature, then transforms into a giant reptile, then into a giant green witch, and finally into an evil goddess. There are a plethora of minibosses as well, further continuing Treasure's reputation for ubiquitous bosses.

Stretch Panic could be the latest in Treasure's long line of bizarre, yet highly playable games. It appears as if the usual formula of large bosses, eye-catching showers of polygons, and wacky gameplay will once again create another niche masterpiece. Conspiracy Games plans to bring the game to North America this winter.

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