Stranger Things 3 The Game Switch Review

Stranger Things 3 The Game - does it hold up to the series of the same name, minus the game bit? Erm... no.

A videogame tie-in for a TV series? How about something new? Ok, bad example – I can’t think of a TV spin-off, just movies. Whatever. Like a teenage boy waiting for the 10-minute skin-flick preview at midnight, I’ve been holding back for what is Stranger Things 3: The Game – a spin-off of Stranger Things 3… the err, TV series.

If you’re anything like me (congrats), you’d agree that Stranger Things is on equal terms with sliced bread, novelty slippers and custard creams. Stranger Things is a fantastic show that tickles all the wobbly bits connected to your nostalgia gland, giving you a cheeky wink every time there’s a reference to one of our beloved franchises or another. Ish. But it’s not just fanboy (or girl) gimmicks – the ensemble cast is brilliant and the story, while not utterly original if you grew up on straight-to-video 80s sci-fi and horror, are fantabulous.

Stranger Things 3 The Game - Outside the hardware store Joyce works
Hawkins recreated: Melvalds – sale on magnets! Source: PR

Hindsight, the Demogorgon

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to buy the game as there was a price drop, and notwithstanding the negative reviews that put me off a tad, I wanted to make my own mind up. Regrettably, most of the reviews are accurate in that Stranger Things 3 The Game is a grind. Not in the sense of developing your avatar, but a chore.

The game follows the plot of series three quite well, but there is nothing new introduced other than side quests. As can be expected in video games, you have to add extra enemies or incentives for the fickle gamers as it’s different medium and not going to keep us occupied for long if it’s verbatim.

Unfortunately, the side quests are monotonous collecting tat, destroying what seems to be an endless supply of boxes and rats and wandering around a pretty soulless Hawkins. Ever see that South Park ‘Make love, not Warcraft’ episode where they level up by killing rats? That’s Stranger Things 3 The Game, only your characters don’t level up. You get random, unrelated junk to craft new things that do diddly-squat other than the odd buff in a battle. Meh.

Stranger Things 3 The Game - An added treasure hunt: locate the hidden gnomes
A highlight? Locating gnomes in Stranger Things. Source: PR

Where there’s a Will, there’s Dustin, Mike and Lucas

You control one player at a time, with an AI minion at your side. Ingenious (over-egging that a bit); press ZL or ZR and you can scroll through your available characters on the fly. Possibly the best feature of the game as each character has their traits/abilities. My favourite character in the show would probably be Dustin, Steve or Hopper. Good old Dustin carries a spray that can do long-distance attacks, Steve’s hair poses and Hopper is what you’d expect – a no-nonsense melee bruiser, but the others have their uses too.

For some reason Mike is the tough guy of the group – his special is a taunt, taking the pressure off his companion. Probably not the best example, as if you’ve seen series three, you’ll know that he’s as intimidating as a wet fart. Unless you’re on the way to a job interview, that’s not cool. Anyhow, it’s Lucas who was my go-to character with his badass catapult. Snipe anything from rats to cardboard boxes without having to set foot in a room or getting in close.

Talking of rooms, Stranger Things 3 The Game doesn’t have the best grasp on perspective. Open up the front door to a house, and it turns into a tardis – long corridors, spacious living areas… either the designers were thinking outside of the box and being creative, or someone doesn’t understand the concept of a basic floorplan. I’ve never seen so many houses in the suburbs with their own east and west wings. 

Stranger Things 3 The Game - Running an errand for one of the mums
Hello, Mrs Robinson… Source: PR

A poor tie-in? Stranger Things (huh-huh) have happened…

I liked the graphics. These visuals aren’t what you would have seen around the time of Stranger Things, but it wouldn’t have been out of place on the SNES or Mega Drive. With the isometric style, it looks a little like Zombies Ate My Neighbors (there’s a ‘u’) and Paperboy stayed up late one night, drank absinthe and bumped uglies only to reminisce nine months later with Stranger Things 3 The Game, their child. True story.

Alas, the music doesn’t have as good a comparison. The theme music is for the TV series is perfect – as if John Carpenter’s abandoned scores were found in an attic somewhere and reimagined. 8-bit corruptions exude here. Well, they aren’t bad, but wanted more. Likewise, it’s the same with the sound effects. If it were an original game/property, I wouldn’t have minded at all, but this is a classic case of the doomed licenced movie/tv video gaming. They aren’t all bad – I used to love The Blues Brothers on the SNES and Terminator 2 on – you guessed it, the Amiga.

Stranger Things 3 The Game was one of those rare games that I had to finish out of respect for the series it is based on. But that’s not my responsibility. The developers could have made a much more engaging game. They evidently had access to the script early on, so knew where everything was going in terms of the narrative. By the way, I’m saying this as a gamer, not a Stranger Things fanboy. I don’t care if there are errors, or it’s not entirely like the show – I anticipate that, but I don’t want to spend my gaming time killing rats that turn into blobs or hitting another handbag that someone has left in the mall.

An example of the crafting menus

A shaving Grace (intentional – I’m entertaining myself) is that this can be done in a two-player split-screen. It’s a challenge enough to be expected to have any friends, and that discriminates against us loners, but the people I paid to be my friends gave me the money back and weren’t prepared to play. I offered the vacant position to my nine-year-old, but she took it the wrong way and thought she was being punished. I could only regain her trust by letting her play The Sims and Minecraft again. Hell, I’d join her.

Replay value – watch it again on Netflix

By now, most people interested in the series will have seen the show. If you want to re-live it, I suggest watching it again. The story is the same in the game, but the Netflix show is more engaging and, dare I say, more interactive (I have nothing to support that argument, I’m just bitter that I ignored others’ comments about this game). For once, the unanimous voices resonated in my shell-likes.

Stranger Things 3 The Game on the Switch is the best movie/TV tie-in ever made

Not me

I know full well that I’m a people pleaser, but I’m also honest and will withhold saying anything in fear of upsetting anyone. A lot of hard work goes into making these games for our enjoyment, and the majority of us wouldn’t know where to begin.

Someone turned out the lights
Let’s shut this thing down

With that said, with a hot property such as Stranger Things, you’d expect a bit more would have gone into this and edged out something memorable for the right reasons. When (not if) Stranger Things 4 hits the Netflix lobby, I’d assume there won’t be a game, or it will be a different attempt. Perhaps an RPG in the style of Eye of the Beholder. You know, I think that could work. In the meantime, stick to the TV show. 

Disclaimer: Having visited the upside-down world once during an attempted headstand, I can confirm that it is indeed a strange and baffling realm. Yet, my only real grasp of Dungeons & Dragons involves an annoying unicorn, a cool ranger but with the name Hank, and a tit of a boy who carries a shield when he should be belted with it. So, I’m only halfway to understand Stranger Things.

For the game, however, this is as wanted a turd wrapped in velvet. I want to accept it, but it’s doesn’t belong in my collection and need to wash my hands of it (it isn’t a turd of a game, I just can’t pull out a witty line. I said ‘witty’).