GameCentral offers a spoiler free review of the video game tie-in for Stranger Things season 3, but are its retro charms as strong?
Since Netflix accounts for 15% of all Internet traffic across the entire world, we imagine theres a fair few million people that have, like us, already binged through season three of Stranger Things. Since the game tie-in follows the same story this will be a spoiler free review, but well just say briefly that we did enjoy the show; even if it was surprising to see it abandon any pretence of subtlety in terms of its ludicrous plot, schlocky horror, and outrageous product placement and 80s movie references.
But everything is held together by a huge cast of characters that should seem unwieldy but are all genuinely likeable and engaging (well, except Sheriff Hopper, who was, for some reason, written as anything but this time). Each character was given at least a moment to shine, in terms of both action and character growth, and the whole season neatly demonstrated how talented actors and good direction can elevate a relatively unremarkable script.
A script which the game has clearly had full access to, since many lines of dialogue are identical and even minor plot points are referenced as the story unfolds. That means you absolutely do not want to play this before youve seen the show. Although theres another, more obvious reason why youd want to put it off: its not very good.
This might have the same script as the show but without any voiceovers or realistic animation its fascinating how the storytelling and dialogue falls completely flat. If you know the characters then you can follow along perfectly well, imagining their voices in your head as you read the on-screen text, but its not the same. Even without a video game to prove it, the primary appeal of the show is the performances and they dont exist when everyone looks like a 16-bit sprite.
One of the bullet points for the game describes it as a retro throwback to adventure games of the Stranger Things era which is palpably untrue. Season 3 is set in the summer of 1985, several months before the release of the NES in America. At that time the US was still feeling the effects of the video game crash of 1983, which is why, apart from a passing reference to an Atari (presumably an Atari 2600), the only video games the kids are ever seen playing are arcade coin-ops.
But even a coin-op like Paperboy (an isometric game from the same year) never looked as good as the Stranger Things game, and it would certainly never feature slow-paced exploration and puzzles such as you find here. The simplistic combat is more reminiscent of the era though, as it revolves around the use of a single attack button and a special move thats fuelled by New Coke (so, yes, the product placement is here too). Each character, out of an eventual total of 12, has their own different moves but none of them add any nuance or excitement to the action. There is a block, which is meant to segue into a counter, but its rarely necessary and difficult to use in a crowd.
Another main appeal of the show is the horror elements, which this season features some unexpectedly grotesque effects that seem to be cribbing from The Thing – and by association Resident Evil. That also falls completely flat in the game, as you spend most of your time fighting pixelated blobs that its impossible to be scared or disgusted by. Again, all the component elements are reflected in the game, but absolutely none of it works when transformed into an isometric faux-retro game.
Some role-playing elements might have helped but there arent really any, unless you count the crafting element that sees you using collected items to build trinkets which give you buffs in combat. If youre being generous you could also say theres a minor Metroidvania element where some characters have the means to get into areas others cant, such as Joyce with her wirecutters, but nothing you need to go back to is ever necessary for completing the story.
The only saving grace is the co-op option, which allows two to play at once – as otherwise you have to wander around with a computer-controlled companion. If both of you are Stranger Things fans then this can be mildly entertaining, especially during the tough boss batRead More – Source