Strangely good fun
Oh, look. It’s the official game for Stranger Things, the popular Netflix series.
We know what you’re thinking, but fear not, because unlike some TV tie-ins, Stranger Things: The Game is far from a lazy cash-grab. It’s a welcome dose of nostalgia-fuelled fun, and completely and utterly free-of-charge for iOS and Android.
iOS and Android (Click to download)
What is it?
Just like the show, Stranger Things: The Game is set in small town of Hawkins, Indiana in the 1980s. It’s a top-down adventure inspired by classic video games of the same decade, with a retro 16-bit aesthetic to boot.
You’ll explore familiar locations such as Mirkwood, Hawkins Lab, and of course, The Upside Down - fraught with frightening foes, tricky obstacles, and puzzles that you must solve to progress.
What did we like?
Stranger Things: The Game is charming from the minute you open the app. It has a gorgeous old-school look not too dissimilar to the Mega Drive games we used to enjoy back in the day. This is retro-style gaming in its purest, undiluted form.
You’ll initially take control of Hopper, in search of the band of lost kids. In your quest to find them, you’ll explore the leafy Mirkwood, and its mysterious surroundings.
The game’s developer, BonusXP, has done a terrific job in creating a game world with personality and wonder. You’ll speak to various Hawkins citizens, gather collectibles, and uncover clues telling you where to go next.
You’ll explore puzzle-filled dungeons that are a welcome tribute to top-down RPG games of old, such as Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. And that’s the biggest complement we can pay to a game that won’t cost you a penny to play. Even the end of dungeon bosses are a welcome reminder of 80s gaming.
While the puzzles aren’t too complex, there’s a nice sense of joy from solving them while you’re stuck on the train. They mostly involve triggering door-opening switches, and hunting down keys to unlock hidden paths, but they’re still good fun.
The level design is great. You’re never led astray with no sense of direction, and there’s always an interesting path to follow, things to collect, and cupboards to ransack. Collect enough coins and you’ll be able to buy pieces of health, key cards, and weapon upgrades.
There’s also several video tapes scattered about the town. Collect them all, and you’ll get access to a previously unseen Stranger Things trailer.
Stranger Things: The Game keeps things fresh by letting you play as each new character you unlock. Each one has their own unique ability. For example, Hopper packs a powerful punch attack, Lucas fires pebble projectiles useful for hitting faraway switches, and Nancy has a baseball bat that you can use to smash through previously blocked paths. Further on in the game you're able to unlock Eleven, but we won't drop any more spoilers than that.
What could be better?
If we’re going to nit-pick, you could say the gameplay can feel repetitive when played in long bursts. Even so, that would be doing great disservice to what is a meaty overall package, considering you can play it for precisely zero of your hard-earned.
Stranger Things: The Game leaves us with a burning question. How is this game free? There’s no in-game adverts to distract you, no hidden costs, no in-app purchases. Just one superbly designed, classic-styled adventure.
It’s everything we wish free-to-play games could be. And it’s one of the most rewarding smartphone games you’ll play all year. It looks great, it’s full of charm, and has plenty to keep you entertained for hours.