Return to Hawkins
Based on the hit Netflix series, Stranger Things 3: The Game dives deeper into the events of season three. Follow Lucas, Mike and the rest of the cast as they try to figure out what’s happening to their town. With main quests and side quests aplenty, this adventure by BonusXP, Inc. is guaranteed to keep you busy. Though some puzzles are needlessly difficult, the story and mystery should be enough to keep pushing forward.
Smash & Grab
Play as Lucas and Mike on a quest to see a movie. They decide to go through corridors to get around the long line but need Steve’s keys. Tap or drag your finger along the screen to move around. Look for the keys by going into the backroom of Scoops Ahoy! and smashing cardboard boxes and pallets. Each playable character has their own way to break things and fight. For example, Lucas comes with a slingshot while Mike wields a bat. Tap a character’s portrait to switch between them and tap an enemy or an item to attack. Whoever you’re not playing as will fight automatically. After smashing, you’ll sometimes get money and other items that’ll help you progress. Characters also have health and energy bars you’ll need to keep an eye on. Keep health bars up with medkits that heal the whole party, and the occasional heart drops, which only heals whoever you’re playing as. Energy bars can be refilled with cans of Coca-Cola. They can be bought from vending machines.
You can only play with two characters at a time, but based on what I saw, other playable characters are unlocked quickly. Every character has something important to bring to the table. While exploring Hawkins, you’ll come across areas barred by locked gates. Once you unlock Joyce, tap on the locked gates and she can use her bolt cutters to get them open. Path blocked by giant boulders? Tap the cherry bomb icon above Lucas to blow them away. A locked door with a number pad? Dustin will hack it open in no time. Try everyone out to see who you like the most. Though there are times when certain characters are required, you can just switch them back once their task is done.
If you can’t find a necessary item in Stranger Things 3, then you’ll have to make it from scratch. Pick up random items around Hawkins like rags, nails, wire spools, duct tape and more to craft what you need. Say you want to make a Firestarter. You’ll need gauze, rubbing alcohol, motor oil and a lighter. Go to one of the many crafting tables around town and make it so it can be added to your inventory. Beyond crafting, you can also equip special items called Trinkets. Outlined in blue, these Trinkets can be added to your party to help them out in a fight. Mike’s outfit, for example, increases physical damage by 15%, while Eleven’s outfit increases shock damage by 20%. Other Trinkets include protective gloves, REO speedshoes (roller skates) and a homemade bomb called Child’s Play. You can only equip five Trinkets at a time, so choose wisely.
Puzzling Netflix Exclusive
Though overall a fun game, Stranger Things 3 does have drawbacks. For one thing, you can only play if you have a Netflix account. This seems limiting as I can imagine not everyone is able to afford that. Additionally, based on some comments I’ve seen on Google Play with this and other Stranger Things games, they originally could be played by anyone. I don’t know if the game developers had any say in this, but it’s still a rude and unnecessary move. Just because Netflix owns Stranger Things doesn’t mean they own games inspired by it. Besides being a Netflix exclusive, some of the puzzles in this game are quite difficult. Well, difficult for me, anyway. What’s frustrating is that all the harder puzzles seem to be part of the main quest, meaning you can’t move forward with the story until you complete them.
One example is when the kids are looking for a Russian translation book after accidentally finding a radio signal. They need to get into the banned book vault in the library’s basement and can only unlock it by flipping the right sequence of switches. There’s even computers in the basement that tells them what order to flip the switches. However, only three rooms can have power at a time, otherwise the circuit will short. The problem I encountered was even after flipping the switches in the order described, nothing happened. Not knowing what else to do, as there was no hint button, I had to look up how to get into the vault. Apparently, there were some switches I’d flipped the wrong way, in direct opposition to the instructions. Either I misread something or there was a miscommunication, but you shouldn’t have to look up how to solve a puzzle, even if it’s challenging.
Gag Me with a Spoon
Stranger Things 3: The Game does have a lot going for it, with an engaging mystery and plenty of playable characters, but ultimately falls short. There is a lot to do to keep you busy, from smashing objects to fighting bad guys and exploring the town of Hawkins while completing main and side quests. Unfortunately, some main quest puzzles are needlessly difficult, forcing you to nearly rage-quit and look up how to complete them. Plus, you can only play this game if you have a Netflix account, limiting potential player numbers. The fact that Stranger Things 3 and other games like it were available to everyone initially makes the change to Netflix exclusivity seem like a dumb and questionable move.
Is It Hardcore?
Having multiple playable characters with different abilities and an engrossing story can’t save this game from frustrating puzzles and shutting out a significant player base.