Ever since it dropped on Netflix back in 2016, Stranger Things has exploded in popularity and become it’s own pop culture phenomenon. So much so that I count down the days leading up to the drop of a new season and binge watch the lot of it as soon as I’m able to. But this year, along with the launch of season 3, the team at BonusXP simultaneously launched a tie in game for the third season. BonusXP were the developers of 2017’s Stranger Things mobile game but this time around the game will be coming to consoles and PC.
The plot of Stranger Things 3: The Game, as the name may suggest follows the plot of season 3 really faithfully. With some added segments such as additional combat scenarios and supplemental side quests and objectives thrown in to enforce the video game aspect. The game is broken up into chapters that mimic the names of the episodes from season three, further enforcing that this is the video game representation of the new batch of episodes and that it’s clear BonusXP worked closely with the series’ production team during development.
In the same way the show is a celebration of life growing up in the 80’s, the game is a celebration of the video games of that era. With Stranger Things 3: The Game implementing a classic 16-bit pixel art style and replicating core mechanics of games from that time. The best part is, the game feels like Stranger Things. The pixel art characters and town replicate the look of Hawkins well and the synth based score that plays in the background during your adventure had me feeling the same way I do when I sit down to enjoy the show.
The game is primarily an action-adventure beat-em-up but has RPG mechanics scattered throughout to add another layer of excitement and gameplay variety to the title. With players able to use recipes to craft upgrades using items found throughout the world and each character capable of their own unique, almost class-based abilities that have their uses both in and out of battle.
During each chapter you take control of a 2 player party, where you’re able to switch out the party members and decide which one you control at any time. Starting out with only a couple of characters at your disposal but progressively unlocking more as you journey through the story. Each of the 12 playable characters have their own combat and traversal perks, a trait quite common in RPG’s especially the famed Dungeons and Dragons, which is featured prominently in the show and loosely influences themes of the plot. For example there’s Mike who is able to deal considerable damage with his bat but that requires him to get up close and personal with the enemies and Lucas who is able to pick off enemies from a distance with his slingshot, but the ability to attack from afar results in strikes that deal far less damage.
As mentioned, the characters each have a purpose in the world with them possessing skills that allow you to solve puzzles and progress past obstacles. Lucas’ slingshot has a special attack that allows the breaking of boulders that block paths and Dustin is able to use his hacking skills to gain access into terminals and open locked doors.
The flexibility around how each character plays and their individual abilities allows you to put together your party to meet your playstyle. While I didn’t want to play through the whole game as Mike I would often have him in my party as my secondary character so that I could quick-swap to him and deal higher damage quickly in battle and then switch back to playing as one of the other characters.
Normally the secondary character is controlled by the game’s AI but you can also have a second player take control of the other character as the game does support local co-op.
I love the Stranger Things universe and had a really fun time playing through this game, but it does have some problems that need to be mentioned. The first being that the game can really only be recommended to existing fans of the show. As the game is a retelling of season 3, it makes no effort to bring you up to speed on the events that went down in the first 2 seasons or fill you in on who the characters are or their back stories. I also highly recommend watching the newest season before jumping into the game for obvious reasons.
Some lines of dialogue are 1:1 with what is said in the show, but due to the delivery of the lines being completely text based, I found some of the moments failed to have the same impact that the same scene in the show conveyed whether that be in comedic or powerful moments. Stranger Things 3: The Game can be completed in around 8 hours and while I found the delivery of the story content and it’s chapters to be well paced, by the end of the game I was finding the beat-em-up/clear out all the bad guys mission structure becoming quite repetitive but enjoyed the exploration and puzzle solving aspect of the game through to the end.
As a Stranger Things fan, I loved that there was something to jump into to continue living in Hawkins and adventuring with familiar characters after I rolled credits on season 3. Being able to freely move around Hawkins, collect items, beat up enemies, solve puzzles, converse with other key characters in the town and complete the numerous main and side missions brought a lot of fun. While it is still something I can only recommend to existing fans of the franchise, if you’re someone who enjoys the Stranger Things universe you’ll likely have a fun time with Stranger Things 3: The Game.
A PS4 review code was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.
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