Reviewed by @Brett_SevenDaze
- Developer: BonusXP
- Publisher: BonusXP/ Netflix
- Release Date: 04/07/2019
- Price: £15.99 / $19.99
- Review code provided by BonusXP
Revisiting the Upside Down
***This review contains spoilers of Stranger Things season 3 which can now be streamed on Netflix***
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years you would have heard of a little show called Stranger Things, a phenomenon that has taken over the world and a small town named Hawkins. With season 3 recently being released on streaming giants Netflix its time to pump up the tyres on your BMX and retune those walkies talkies for another adventure with Dustin and the gang. With the series being set in the 80’s complete with endless references from the era, the game is no different. BonusXP has created an official tie-in game that is oozing retro goodness, re-live the action-packed third season all over again in this 16-bit adventure RPG.
If you haven’t watched season 3 yet do yourself a favour put down those Joy Con and go and binge-watch the latest offering now before playing the game, it will definitely make more sense.
BonusXP are no strangers to the upside-down as they were asked to develop the Stranger Things game released on mobile formats back in 2017. The game was highly praised from fans of the show as it boasted a completely new story line set between seasons 1&2 and was free to download. I may have completed it with 100%, but who’s bragging.
It was a bold decision to announce that the next instalment would be released on console and that players would have to pay this time around, but I feel it was the right thing to do and was a natural progression for the company. Having the backing of Netflix and the writers of the show it would have been a missed opportunity for BonusXP. As a developer, it has probably opened so many doors and avenues for them.
After the first cutscene – showing those pesky Russians trying to blast open the gate to the upside-down, the game starts in the towns latest addition – The Starcourt Shopping Mall, with Mike and Lucas, where the first task is to get into the cinema to watch ‘Day of the Dead’. This is more of a tutorial than a real mission. Like in most games, this is a chance to get used to the controls and mechanics of the game. Once you have completed the tutorial it shows another cut scene where the town of Hawkins descends into complete darkness. The one thing I noticed straight away after walking around Starcourt is even though BonusXP has released an official game, did they have all the licenses that the TV show had? Apart from Scoops Ahoy; which was a fictional ice cream parlour created for the series, no other shop is the same with Burger King missing and Claire’s being spelt differently, It’s not a big deal but just wondered if that was the reason.
The game play resembles beat-em-ups from the same era of the show like Streets of Rage and Double Dragon. BonusXP has kept to the same formula and style that made the first game so great. The main differences are you can now play as 2 characters and the introduction of crafting weapons and trinkets to progress through the story. With the addition of the second playable character, you can now enjoy co-op mode with a friend and take on the Mind Flayer together. If you don’t have a trusty D&D companion to help out, you can switch between the two characters and tell them to either follow you or stay where they are using the buddy commands. This is essential when trying to solve puzzles later in the game. Most adventure RPG’s these days have some sort of crafting mechanic to them and Stranger things is no different but I feel this feature adds much more depth to BonusXP’s second offering. Weapons and trinkets can be crafted using items you have collected or bought and then combined at stations throughout Hawkins. A total of 5 trinkets can be equipped at one time to help you through your journey from extra health to character-specific bonuses.
You can’t spell America without Erica
Each of the 12 playable characters has their own unique abilities that will all play a part in helping you reach that final showdown in Starcourt. A few of the highlights are Max’s medic special which, when activated, she will spawn hearts for both characters to gain health. Erica’s skill set allows her to access ducts to find hidden rooms or get past locked doors and Johnathon’s ability is to stun enemies by using the flash on his camera. When using a special it will use 1 or 2 energy bars. To replenish the bars you need to drink cans of new recipe cola which can be bought from the vending machines dotted around the map.
You can switch between each of the 12 characters throughout the game apart from the final mission where you are forced to play as Hopper which is essential for the story line. I feel there should have been more levels throughout the game where you were forced to play as a certain character due to the dialogue. I found it odd and slightly confusing when the story was unfolding – for example, I played most of the game as Eleven due to the strength and Max because of the healing powers (a winning combo) but when a conversation between Nancy and Jonathon was taking place Eleven and Max would still be playable. You could only tell who the dialogue was due to the little picture and name in the text box.
Has The Game Been Flayed?
The game also has noticeable performance issues throughout, the main one being the 2-5 second freeze after it has done an auto-save. It gets worse the further you play through the story due to more data that it needs to save. Another annoying trait Stranger Things 3: The Game has is the loading times. Every time you go to another room or building you will be welcomed with the black loading screen with the Stranger Things logo. This is also made worse due to not having one big open town of Hawkins to explore like the mobile game. The game was made up of different areas which you could navigate to via the map. There were a few features in the mobile game that I wished BonusXP would have carried over but didn’t. To give an example, the percent completion. It is hard to know if you have taken on all the side missions without this, hearts for life instead of a bar or at least tell you how many hit points you have left especially as you progress and use trinkets to gain more HP.
Stranger Things 3: The Game is a fun concise recap of the Show and will take you around 10 hours to complete the campaign, It is a must-play for any Stranger Things fans that can’t wait till season 4. BonusXP has done a great job at capturing that 16-bit art style and making exploring the town of Hawkins so exciting. It does have its issues with long loading times, game freezes when auto-saving and strange dialogues that don’t tie up to the characters on the screen, but if these could be fixed in a future update then it could easily be one of the best TV Show/Movie tie in games released on the Switch. This was a hard review to write for me as I love the show and the first Stranger Things game by BonusXP and even though I enjoyed every last minute of the game and will carry on to collect all 50 gnomes, there were a few problems that the game down a little.
- You can explore Hawkins
- A lengthy campaign with plenty of replayability
- Offline 2 player co-op
- 12 playable characters
- Long loading times
- Messy dialogue
- Freezes gameplay after auto-save
A fun 16-bit adventure that will fill that Stranger Things void, it boasts a large campaign that retells the epic third season and will make you want to revisit Hawkins to explore every inch to find those gnomes. It does have flaw’s but if you look past them it will keep you entertained for 10+ hours