Nitrome is known for its ability to take the fundamental building blocks of a mobile genre, shake them up, add its own twist, and then squish the whole thing back together into something that feels fresh and familiar at the same time. And that’s exactly what the dev does with Stretch Dungeon.
At first glance, it looks like any other endless faller. There’s a podgy pixel character, a series of obstacles to avoid, and a whole bunch of shiny gems to try and collect as you drop ever downwards through a series of dank and deadly hazards.
But look a bit closer and you’ll find a unique and ingenious control system that doesn’t just keep you on your toes, but pushes you to find new ways to stand. And in this era of identikit mobile gaming, that’s something that needs to be shouted about from the rooftops.
Stretch Dungeon sees a prisoner being squished out of a cage at the top of an enormous, randomly generated fall. Instead of controlling his movements though, you’re controlling the movements of the dungeon. More precisely, the walls of the dungeon.
Tap or press on the screen and parts of the level will bulge out, knocking the bearded escapee away from danger or towards gems, depending what you’re aiming for. There are spikes, smashing barriers, and plenty of other things to try and keep out of the way of.
Games like this live and die on their physics engine, and Nitrome gets this one sport on. You never feel like you’ve been pushed in the wrong direction, and any failure is down to the level of challenge the game throws at you or a mistake on your part. And that feels amazing.
Stretch Dungeon sidesteps the dangers of its simple controls by throwing new ideas at you at regular intervals. There are obstacles that move around when you stretch the walls, and bounce pads that sometime chuck you exactly where you need to go and other times hurl you into a wall of spikes and an early death.
The gems you collect can be spent on continues, or if you’re smart, you can save up and unlock shortcuts that let you start deeper down into the levels. There are videos you can watch to get free retries as well.
And everything is presented with the same cheeky aplomb that makes it so fun to roll around in a Nitrome game. There’s humor and heart here the likes of which much bigger studios never seem to get right. It’s easy on the eye too, which is good because you’re going to be spending a good long while with it.
This is a brilliant and confident reshuffling of a genre, a bright and welcoming one-touch action game that trades on its retro roots while still pushing modern mobile gaming in some interesting and exciting directions.
There always seems to be a swagger to Nitrome games; a cockiness that’s constantly backed up by amazing experiences. There’s a part of you that will still think this shouldn’t work, even when you’re two hours in and cackling to yourself at your successes and failures.
Stretch Dungeon showcases everything that’s good about mobile gaming – bright and breezy, challenging and confident, and perfectly designed for either quick-snatch single goes or much deeper play sessions. This is one that you definitely need to stick on your phone or tablet at your earliest convenience.