The inhabitants of Greenhorn Islands are faced with quite the wide-spread problem. Workers across the land are sleeping on the job. Loggers are sleeping in-between sawblades at the mill and farmers are snoozing while driving their tractors. And as it was splendidly put by the town's medical dispatcher: "farmers don't take breaks". Something is clearly wrong.
As it turns out, the evil and short-fused Captain Brains has gone amok, putting people in a forced hypnotic stasis known as the 'dizzies'. He does this by aiming the hypnotic ray gun attached to his head in the direction of his victim. Townsfolk across the land are getting stuck in a mental haze and it's up to you, with the help of a friend or even by yourself, to cure those affected by the Dizzies and set the town back to its normal, productive self.
In The Stretchers, you play as a duo of medics, sent out on this urgent mission to find the dizzies hiding in their places of work (which vary significantly from mission to mission) and transport them by pulling out the stretcher that's located on either medic's back, dropping the workers onto it in a pile of floppy humans, manoeuvring your way through various hazards on the way to your ambulance, and then driving as fast as you can to the hospital. There, a set of sexy doctors awaits with a special contraption that's used to cure the victims non-surgically, as they pose in front of it.
The game is clearly meant to be played with a friend as you control two medics at once, using co-operative tactics to balance the victims on your stretcher, lift heavy objects, avoid dangers, and solve puzzles. You can, however, play the game alone if you wish to, but get ready for a more challenging experience as you then have to move the two medics around simultaneously using the two analogue sticks on your switch controller as well as work around various puzzles in different ways. The game is rather simple and there's not much to keep track of when playing; you run around and grab onto items such as your stretcher, doors or other interesting objects, interact via dialogue, crouch, and sing - all via the press of a button.
The various missions are hilariously written and pop up on the map as you rush across the place in your speedy ambulance, gaining points for running into fences, jumping across canyons using stunt ramps, and searching for collectables and secrets. Each mission has the same base objective: find and save a set amount of dizzies and get them back to the hospital for a brain reset. There are, however, some occasional side objectives available like scaring X amount of seagulls, opening every outhouse or saw every wooden barrel with the saw, as well as secrets that boost your mission points.
The dizzies are often located in odd places that require you to use your big brains and engage in hilarious ragdoll physics-based puzzles to get them down from a roof or out of a patch of high grass. There are also side missions to complete, and one example has you use explosives to free a lonely NPC who's stuck on the beach, while another has you chop down trees in the middle of a busy race track.
Every aspect of The Stretchers is a lot of fun, with its ragdoll physics doing most of the comedic heavy lifting. We played the game with a friend and found ourselves laughing out loud while trying to figure out how to co-operate in the best way to get to our goal. The dialogue between the characters is text-based with the characters spewing jibberish much as we've seen in games like Banjo-Kazooie, but every line of dialogue was a lot of fun to follow.
As you get to choose when to take on a mission, for the most part, you'll find yourself free-roaming quite a lot of the time and aside from side missions, there's plenty to do on the island. There are collectables to find, including hats and catalogues (you can wear the hats you've collected, while catalogues grant you more furniture for your apartment), plus secrets to uncover as well as plenty of stunt-jumps to nail. If you're playing in co-op, one player gets to drive while the other controls the nitro boost, which made for some hilarious moments when we weren't timing the boosts right.
The act of working together when manoeuvring the same item is hilarious but it can also be a pain, especially considering how difficult it is to position oneself just right to pick up the right item or dizzie patient. We also encountered some bugs that had us retry missions once we realised that we couldn't interact with a crucial object needed to proceed, although retrying was an easy task and didn't take too much time.
That said, the game is a joy to experience, more so in co-op than in single-player, and it's sure to bring laughter to whoever plays it. The design is delightful and looks great in docked as well as in portable mode, the soundtrack is fantastically goofy and speeds up with your gameplay, and the story is hilarious, as is the physics-based gameplay. The Stretchers is a gem of a game that will both test your coordination and make you laugh, and it's a great shout if you're specifically looking for something to play with a friend.
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