The Stranger Things universe is expanding into other media which make a lot of sense, especially given the show’s inspirations. This is now the children from Hawkins second adventure in video game form, breaking away from its mobile debut and releasing on consoles and PC on the same day the new season hits Netflix.
The first issue with this tie-in game is due to the fact it heavily bases itself off of the new season, so fans who may wish to play this game may stumble across major plot points before reaching that point in the show. My advice is to watch the 8 episode series then come to the game, this way you’ll find no spoilers and it extends your time with Eleven, Mike and the gang.
Played in an isometric viewpoint in an astoundingly detailed pixel art world, you will control one of 12 characters available as you play. What I really liked is that each character has a unique ability and weapon that really made me use each character rather than sticking to my favourites. Dustin has a nifty hacking ability, allowing you to open previously inaccessible areas. Erica, Lucas’s brilliantly funny sister can fit into small gaps that others can’t.
This game follows the storyline of the series down to the script itself, Netflix obviously gave the develop BonusXP all the material needed to craft the narrative. The game lacks actual voice-overs and sadly is worse off for that, reading the words isn’t as impactful as the actors who portray them speaking them out loud. I understand that’s an issue that I have, especially considering it would go against what the game design has gone for.
When you’re not following the main story, NPCs will give you side quests. These will consist of the following; collecting items, simple puzzles (pressure plates, hitting switches) or smacking rats in rooms. The tedious part of this is the back tracking, often the area you need to get to is across the world map which adds unnecessary time. It’s frustrating but rewarding, as you’ll earn cash or items you can spend to make your experience better. Crafting was a surprise addition, giving characters bonuses in attack or speed. Craft medkits to heal or drink a can of ‘New’ Coca Cola, yes product placement is here.
The town of Hawkins is slightly open for you to explore, yet it sadly feels a bit empty. Locations like the pool, the mall are filled with detail and great to look around, but areas around are unfortunately not memorable and simple feel like filler. You can bash bushes and bins for items that are scattered around, collect gnomes as creepy collectables but apart from that, it’s all a bit bare in the streets.
I believe fans of the show will have a good time with the game much as I did, it’s great to see the franchise expand like it is in a format which makes sense for what the show draws on.
It sadly falls under a tie-in which is a bit naff, with some mechanics which could have made it stand out. It seems shackled to the fact it’s based on the current series rather than the Stranger Things universe as a whole. It’s not a bad game, it just doesn’t have the full Stranger Things aesthetic it should have.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*