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Stranger Things 3: The Game Review

The first thing that a lot of people are going to see when they look at Stranger Things 3: The Game (ST3) is an advertisement. The next thing they’re going to see is another “faithful recreation of vintage games” complete with pixel art and tongue-in-cheek Zelda references. While this may look like another licensed game designed to hype up the latest Netflix hit, spending some time with its seemingly simple gameplay and bare-bones mechanics shows some deeper levels to a game that could be seen as shallow virtual memorabilia. 

SHOT FOR SHOT

The deal about ST3 is that you can’t just pick up this game and play it and expect to get the full experience. This game is littered with in-jokes, references, and dialogue that only players who are up to date with the Netflix series will understand. ST3 itself is a playable recreation of season three that takes liberties to create a new experience that will allow players to play through their favorite scenes while still being surprised at what happens next. For example, the first level recreates a scene where the main characters have to sneak into a movie. In the show, they talk to a friend that works at one of the stores at the mall and sneak into the theater through the employee tunnels that connect the stores in the mall. In the game, players will maneuver through the mall. They talk to their insider and then fight their way through the backrooms, flipping switches, fighting rats, and bribing guards. None of this happened in the Netflix series, but the added elements here create an experience that feels close to the plot of the show it’s emulating. This is a common tactic employed by licensed games that is utilized nicely in this game. The game’s efforts to recreate the visuals of the show don’t hold up as well.

PAST MEETS FUTURE

ST3 has some good looking visuals. They’re pixelated, uniform, and crisp. It’s easy to tell what’s what thanks to the isometric view and distinct silhouettes. While environments, items, and enemies all look impressive, the characters are a little too detailed. All of your favorite Stranger Things characters are here and represented with in-depth pixel art that clashes hard against the stylized world they inhabit. The transition from real actors to video game characters is a little rough. The characters are rendered to have a sharp resemblance to their real-world counterparts. Trying to place high-resolution people in a low-resolution homage means creating a freakish chimera of realistic people and downgraded graphics that can be hard to look at. While they are identifiable at a glance, stylizing the characters more would have blended with the overall art style better and produced a less-terrifying result.

WE GET IT: IT’S THE 80’S

A lot of tropes have reared their head in the video game counterpart to a series that romanticizes the MTV generation. It’s no surprise that it’s ripe with callbacks to everyone’s childhood. Hell, one of the character’s main abilities is to literally scream 80’s references. But the problem here is that the game constantly barrages you with the same handful of callbacks. Yeah, the Legend of Zelda reference is cool, but watching my character do the “get item” pose every time he picks something up gets a little tiring after the tenth time. That’s not to say that there aren’t good references, clever references, but please just tone it down a little. The music itself is stale enough.

THE SOUND (SINGULAR) OF THE 80’S

As you roam the hills of Hawkins you’ll come to realize that ST3’s soundtrack only has one song, or at least that’s what it feels like. You’ll hear this synth-y, creepy, eerie sort of theme over and over again. There’s other background music yes, but it seems like this single theme that sounds like some sort of industrial electronica will constantly play over and over again when you aren’t fighting a boss or watching a cutscene. It really starts to drone after the second or third hour in and only stales the experience.

THE (NOT SO) QUIET LITTLE TOWN OF HAWKINS 

Areas are sprawling and way bigger than they need to be. You’ll wander aimlessly through long corridors and impossibly big rooms that put the TARDIS to shame only to open a door and be immediately greeted by enemies rushing towards you, it’s easier to stand in the doorway and tank the damage while spamming attacks than it is to formulate a strategy since the rooms all suffer from a lack of quality rather than a lack of quantity. Despite the miles of flower shops and storage rooms, there isn’t much to do around the game aside from crushing boxes for pittances of cash and the occasional crafting component.

All things considered, Stranger Things 3: The Video Game is a lot like a licensed game from the ’80s. You liked the movie or show, you want to play the game. You want the game to be as good as the media property, but it’s not. It’s just a licensing mess that was created as a piece of merchandise as opposed to an enjoyable experience. The company that made it knew that as long as it looked good it would sell and once everyone realized that it wasn’t really fun, it was too late to return. So now you’re stuck with a mediocre licensed title and a wallet too empty to go to the arcade with, and you settle. You settle for stale fighting mechanics, crusty music, watching your characters repeat verbatim lines from the movie. It’s playable yeah, enjoyable in parts rarely, but for the most part, you just feel burned.

4

The Verdict: Flawed

Stranger Things 3: The Video Game is a lot like cereal from the ’80s. It’s old and stale and surpassed by more modern offerings. While it draws upon influences of games long past, it ultimately fails to incorporate more recent innovations in it’s genre.

See About Us to learn how we score

Mike Juray
Written by
Wednesday, 04 September 2019 05:44
Published in Adventure

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Mike was first on the scene with a SNES and kept up-to-date on the hottest games thanks to his older brother’s shared love of all things video games. He loves staying in on rainy days with classic horror games like Silent Hill or Clocktower, but has experience across the the gamut of genres, from racing-sim to rhythm-action. He is always looking for new and different experiences, both in gaming and real life. His go-to genre is platforming, but he also enjoys a good FPS or puzzler. When he’s not holding a controller, he enjoys sushi, fluffy dogs, cold lemonades, and urbexing.

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