SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
Do not read this Stranger Things 3: The Game review if you have not yet watched season 3 of Netflix’s original series. We’ve tried to limit spoilers as much as we can, but this game follows the story of season 3, and therefore will be filled with the occasional plot ruining bits and Bobs. You have been warned.
END SPOILER ALERT
It’s the summer of 1985 and everything in Hawkins seems back to normal. Mike and Eleven are spending every waking minute together, much to Hopper’s chagrin. Dustin is home from camp and excited for his long distance relationship. Unfortunately, recent power outages have Will’s “Spidey-sense” tingling, leading him to believe that the Mind Flayer is still out there.
Stranger Things 3: The Game follows the same various story branches we binged on July 4th when Netflix dropped the new season on us. We’re going to abuse Steve’s summer gig at Scoops Ahoy! so we can sneak into the R-rated movies our parents won’t take us to. We’ll help Dustin set up Cerebro so he can chat with his Camp Know-Where squeeze, Suzie. The bit with the magnets and Joyce standing up Magnum P.I. Hopper? Yup, that’s here, too.
We Can Be Heroes
This Stranger Things tie-in is classic ’80s beat ’em up with puzzles and dungeon crawling. We kick things off with two characters: Mike and Lucas. Each character has an attack and special ability unique to them. For Lucas it was his slingshot attack and cherry bomb ability, making him a great ranged character to play. I also love playing as Dustin because there’s something so wonderful in having that can of Farrah Fawcett hairspray at the ready; not just because its chem over time damage, either. There are a total of twelve characters who you’ll unlock naturally as you progress through the story, and I’m sure without me giving you hints you nerds can figure out the roster on your own.
Not only will you need to swap between characters but you’ll also need to give them commands in order to make it through a lot of the puzzles in Stranger Things 3: The Game. For example, in one of the side-quests you’ll have to keep one character near the computer at the front desk, using them to switch which cameras are active and then zap back to your guinea pig as they move through the maze. Left and right on the D-pad will let you give Stay and Follow directions, and it’s a quick trip back into your other active character by pushing Down. When you run into a doorway or chest that requires specific special abilities, such as Dustin’s hacker skill, interacting with the item will automatically switch you to the correct character for the job. If you don’t have them yet, make a note so you can come back later.
Living in a Material World
You’ve seen the show, so you know that we’re going to have a few tough battles ahead. How ever are we going to boost our stats? Crafting, that’s how. You’ll find benches around Hawkins, including one in Mike’s basement and another in Dustin’s carport. Each new character to join to the roster brings with them new crafting recipes for Trinkets you can equip. There are items you can create to boost your max HP or increase your block timer buy a second or two. Some items enhance a single character’s abilities, others will aid male or female, kid or adult. It’s all about making sure you are upgrading and swapping out Trinkets to bring out the best in your tag team.
But we can’t just play through the adventure of season 3, right? Stranger Things 3: The Game provides us some extra homework in the form of side-quests. Most of these are fairly easy to run through: some shops need you to clear out the rats, other townsfolk might need you to run to the mall for them. Others, like the pizza quest I am stuck on, can make you hate the thought of side-questing, period. I’d rather spend my time revisiting the old lab for the umpteenth time looking for the rest of the collectible gnomes stolen from the local shut-in.
BonusXP has taken the hit Netflix series and crafted a fun, yet at times frustrating, pixelated adventure game. Some of the boss battles can really try your patience, and limits on recovery items (medkits and Coke) certainly don’t help matters as you push toward the final episode. On the flip side, there are all kinds of hidden areas to return to and explore further; even if I haven’t seen a percentage log, there’s just something about knowing you’ve 100% cleared a game.
Sorry, New Coke, but this is the retro treat I want in my life.
Stranger Things 3: The Game review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.