Stranger Things: The Game Review

Oct 17, 2017

In July 2016, TV enthusiasts were gifted with one of the most original, nostalgic, and overall wonderful programs in recent memory, one which has quickly gathered cult status and popularity.

That show is Netflix’s Stranger Things. To build hype for the show’s second season which airs on October 27th, a tie-in game adaptation of the events after the first season has been released for iOS and Android, aptly named Stranger Things: The Game. It perfectly captures the spirit and inspirations of its parent TV show, and the choice made by indie developer BonusXP to create this game in the style of retro top-down pixel animation matches Stranger Things’ time period and visual aesthetic. If you consider yourself a gamer and are a fan of Stranger Things, rest assured – this game is wonderfully nostalgic, surprisingly expansive, and is an excellent addition to your mobile gaming library while being a perfect companion to the TV show.

At the start, the player takes control of Police Chief Jim Hopper after receiving a phone call to investigate the disappearance of Will Byers and his three friends. The investigation soon brings Hopper to the infamous Hawkins National Laboratory (the first of many “dungeons”), which is filled with secrets, collectibles, and enemies to dispatch. From here, the player must guide Hopper to locate key cards which provide access to areas deep within the laboratory. To stay alive, the player must fight various enemies scattered about the dungeon, some with the ability to fire projectiles and others who combat in close quarters. Even on Normal mode, when encountering numerous enemies on screen that deal a mix of close quarters and projectile damage, the game can be surprisingly difficult, and it forces the player to adapt accordingly. Once all barriers have been surpassed, the player will need to defeat the dungeon’s boss, and is forced to utilize the abilities of all characters at their disposal to win the battle.

Movie or TV tie-in video games often lack the spirit of what made their inspiration so compelling, but with Stranger Things: The Game, this was not the case.

Eventually obstacles will be encountered that Hopper won’t be able to surpass on his own, which is where the unique abilities of different characters come in. Lucas was the first character I encountered on my play-through, and his special ability was the use of his slingshot, which shoots projectiles and can be used to manipulate objects that are inaccessible or at a distance. There were multiple switches I encountered that I was unable to reach initially. Backtracking through the laboratory provided me with the ability to hit these switches thanks to Lucas’ sling-shot, allowing me to explore further. Later, the player will unlock Nancy Wheeler, who wields a baseball bat as seen in the TV show, and has the ability to break down walls revealing hidden rooms, or to destroy objects blocking her path. Unlocking these additional characters encourages backtracking to already-explored dungeons to find their secret items or hidden areas that were previously inaccessible.

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Once completing Hawkins National Laboratory, the map of Hawkins County opens up to the player. Some areas are still inaccessible due to requiring character abilities to provide access, but I was shocked at how big the whole map was, especially since this game is FREE. Locales in the TV show are also rendered beautifully here in pixelated goodness, including the aforementioned laboratory, the Byers’ Home, the elementary school, Mirkwood Forest, and the dark, terrifying world of the Upside Down, to name a few.

The town begs to be explored, and here is where the player has the option of going off the beaten path to make their progression more dynamic. Abstract quest items can be found and traded with various NPCs for collectibles that aid in the player’s journey. These items range from a Teacher’s Edition Textbook to a toy semi-truck that can change into a robot (Transformers anyone?). Interacting with objects in the game world elicits a unique response depending on what character is being used – for example, if Hopper examines a TV, he’ll make a comment about how it’s too late for there to be a program to watch. As for Lucas, he’ll wonder when cartoons will be coming on. When examining a phone (and it seems all characters have the same response in this regard), your character will say “Who ya gonna call?”, which is an obvious reference to Ghostbusters.

Stranger Things: The Game was not what I expected. Movie or TV tie-in video games often lack the spirit of what made their inspiration so compelling, but with Stranger Things: The Game, this was not the case. BonusXP has taken the inspiration and spirit from the TV show in stride, and has created a game packed with references to the show and to pop culture relevant to its time period. For fans of Stranger Things and gamers alike, Stranger Things: The Game is a excellent addition to your mobile game library and will undoubtedly fill the Stranger Things-shaped hole in your lives while waiting out the release of the TV show’s second season.

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Our Rating

Perfectly captures the spirit and inspirations of its parent TV showGameplay not varied enough.
Stranger Things: The Game
Stranger Things: The Game
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