Alright, I admit it. I really like Stranger Things. From its debut on Netflix and now on its third season- where did the time go- on July 4th 2019, the Duffer Brothers attempted to make the birthday of our nation into an 80s filled action thriller with the kids and adults of Hawkins, Indiana. With the teens trying to move on into teen life, what better way to commemorate the long anticipated third season with a video game?
Stranger Things 3 The Game, developed by BonusXP, is a companion game to Netflix’s Stranger Things series, released on July 4th, 2019. It’s an action/adventure/puzzle beat ‘em up style game that puts you in the shoes of Mike, Lucas, and the rest of the gang with the new additions of Max and Robin. Each character has their own fighting style and special ability to help you unlock areas and collectibles.
As a retro stylized action/adventure/puzzle game, ST3: The Game is a reenactment of the events of the show, meaning if you haven’t watched it before you play this, then you are spoiling yourself. Or, if you don’t have a Netflix account and need some way to get your fix, then this is the game that can help catch up with what goes on in season 3. It completely follows the story but adds exclusive quests and game centric items such as collectible garden gnomes, like the mobile game of the first season.
Gameplay wise, there are several characters to play as that you collect; Mike, Elle, Hopper, Joyce and the rest of the cast. Except for Billy. You are able to walk around, destroy environmental objects for items to boost health, beat up enemies, and use special abilities reserved for special characters. The new feature that this game has is its dialogue options in two trees; one paragon good and renegade bad. It also instills a new feature with your follower, directing them or quickly switching to them at the press of a button. On the surface, it acts like an RPG with you controlling two characters or one character with another player in co-op play. There is a crafting system where you can make trinkets to help increase damage output to some if not all characters, depending if you have materials. The combat is button mashing at best, with options such as character specific attacks or blocking. Puzzles break the monotonous button mash and traveling between areas, but they’re not scratching your head hard as they are A+B=C.
One major complaint that I have for this game is, while it presents itself as an exciting and thrilling game made for Stranger Things fans, it turns into a slog quickly. With all the abilities and characters, along with a few side quests that are thrown in to add more minutes to the game time. What games should try to do is to make the time you spend meaningful or always in progress. But, for this, there is backtracking and tedious time-consuming areas where you are fighting or walking around an empty area, if it isn’t dotted with characters to talk to. In a way, if you’ve played the first Stranger Things game then you have played this one. The levels get longer as you progress with enemies that either do or don’t reference the show at all, allowing a single bit of variety between combat encounters. Lastly, quests are broken up into find something and bring it back to a character; this happens throughout the game.
Would I recommend this to you as a fan of the show? Not really. In all fairness, this game is an abridged version of Netflix’s latest cash cow. The pixel art references nostalgia but doesn’t hold that same flame of “I remember that!” nostalgia that Stranger Things has artfully and smartly done, unlike most “nostalgia grabs” like Stephen King’s IT or any movie remake. If you were to do the right thing, then go on a free trial of Netflix and binge it- Stranger Things, not IT- and watch the show itself for what it is. You don’t need to play the game to love the show. If you desperately need to get the game, then get it so that you can play it with a young cousin who wants that reduced version of Stranger Things. If not, watch the show. It’s a good season anyways.
Stranger Things 3 The Game is $19.99 on all consoles and PC.