Capsule Review: Stranger Things: The Game

A top-down action adventure set between seasons one and two of Stranger Things and modeled after classic The Legend of Zelda games, in particular A Link to the Past. (Nevermind that the show is explicitly set eight years and two console generations before the release of that game.) Gameplay consists of a series of dungeons connected by the overworld of Hawkins, Indiana, with combat and puzzle-solving in both environments. Unlike in Zelda, however, you can play as multiple characters. You start with Chief Hopper and unlock other members of the main cast as you go. You can switch freely between them and each has their own special ability.

The controls are kept simple - walking, attacking, and interacting with the environment are all handled by tapping your target. This keeps things intuitive but has a few drawbacks - if you tap something that looks interesting to see if you can interact with it, you might instead find yourself walking somewhere unintended; additionally it can be hard to keep track of an enemy’s location under your rapidly-tapping finger.

For a completely free game made to promote a TV show, the quality is shockingly high. But in the course of making it work as a Zelda-style game, the faithfulness of the adaptation was lost. It’s very Stranger Things-flavored, with plenty of references and fan service and window dressing, but neither the world nor the characters behave the way they do in the show. The first dungeon sends Hop into Hawkins National Lab where he must find hidden levers to turn off laser barriers and beat up every guard and scientist in the place, and shortly afterward Steve reports that Nancy vanished in the forest but apparently has no intention of going after her and is content to let Hop handle it.

The game pretty quickly stops feeling like you’re actually in the Stranger Things world with your beloved characters and instead - appropriately enough - feels like you are playing a game based on them. So the Zelda-like gameplay itself has to be interesting enough on its own merits to be worth your time. For me, it wasn’t - the combat and puzzles simply weren’t that engaging, requiring more trial and error than thought and skill.

I Stopped Playing When: I enjoyed the first dungeon, was a bit bored by the overworld trekking to find the second dungeon, and was sufficiently annoyed by the ridiculous beehive puzzles in the second dungeon that I lost interest.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.