If you’ve ever wanted to explore the town of Hawkins, wait no more. Stranger Things: The Game is a fun new adventure available for both iOS and Android that combines the characters, setting and creepy vibes from the Netflix smash hit series with a simplistic control scheme that makes it easy to learn, but difficult to master.
Full of 1980s nostalgia and series references, Stranger Things: The Game is a recap of the series narrative, but with you in total control of the main characters. You’ll start as Chief Hopper, getting a call about some missing kids (Flo tells you, “It’s that Byers boy and his friends.”) and using his super punch move, you’ll smash your way through the first dungeon, solving puzzles and defeating the boss at the end.
In this way, the game feels very much like Legend of Zelda, as you’ll find yourself opening chests to find keys that open locked doors, solving switch puzzles and taking on increasingly difficult enemies that can shoot, punch and throw literal wrenches into your plans of victory.
The way you play the game is simple, point to move, click on what you’d like to attack. This mechanic, however, was the one I had the most trouble with. Playing this on mobile, I often found that the enemies – when there were more than one of them attaching you at the same time – would get lost under my fingers, resulting in me losing track of them and usually dying. When this happens after you’ve gotten 3/4 of the way through a dungeon and then have to start from the beginning, it can be frustrating. There really isn’t a way around this given the controls, but on-screen buttons (though I don’t really like those either) might have been a better choice.
You unlock additional characters as the story progresses, and all of them have unique special moves. Lucas can flip switches from a distance with his wrist rocket, Nancy bashes her bat through obstacles, Dustin flings #distractionpudding, etc. You’ll find lots of obstacles throughout Hawkins that you’ll need to have another character to pass through, especially if you fancy yourself a completionist and want to find all of the gnomes, VHS tapes and Eggo’s. One cool thing though, is that once you have the required character in your group, the game will auto-switch to that character depending on the obstacle, so you won’t be constantly in the menus choosing the right one.
One of the shining features of this game – a collaboration between Netflix and developer BonusXP – is that it’s free to buy and free to play. There are no in-app purchases and no ways to buy a win. It’s refreshing in a game that is so well produced, full of little nods to the series and it’s setting in the ’80s (there’s a movie theatre showing Ghostbusters and other ’80s movies – and the police station has notes on the wall that tell you about reports of frequent owl attacks and some guy who has his gnomes stolen a lot.) Kudos to the team for making an entertaining, completely free experience.
Stranger Things: The Game is a great trip back through the first season, with challenging puzzles, twitch gameplay and a fantastic soundtrack. If you’ve been missing the series, this will be the perfect way to scratch that itch until the new season premieres on October 27, 2017, on Netflix.