It’s likely if your house plays host to Stranger Things fans, those fans have already completed their binge of the third season of Netflix’s dare I say flagship original series. With just over 7 hours of content, and it having hit the platform less than a week ago, it seems most people we know finished it faster than us — and we finished it in three nights. Netflix even announced on Tuesday that nearly half (18.2 million) of its more than 40 million households of viewers had already binged the complete third season. If you need more of the show in your life, which comes and goes so fast thanks to the Netflix model of dropping an entire season at once (and killing water cooler culture in the process), Stranger Things 3: The Game is a fun companion piece, so much so that it’s our Family Game of the Week.

For the most part, BonusXP’s action-adventure tie-in tells the same story as the third season, though in classic video game fashion there are side quests and other mysteries to uncover too. Done in a style that isn’t quite faithful to the series’ 1985 setting but still looks decidedly retro, the game will be as nostalgic as the series for the Generation Xers in your family. It can be played in two-player co-op too, and even if you go it alone, you’ll always have a second character by your side to help fight enemies and solve puzzles. The AI holds up well, though seems to get its combat moves nerfed when left to its own devices. Still, for the homes with several fans living in it, co-op is absolutely the way to go.

One of the really fun parts of the game is unlocking new characters. At the start, you are left with just Lucas and Mike as they try to sneak into the mall’s theater to see Romero’s Day of the Dead. But as the game goes on, you’ll unlock ten more characters from the ensemble cast. Each has their own attacks and abilities too, which makes mixing up the pairs for combat and finding the right fits for puzzles a lot of fun. Eleven feels properly overpowered when first introduced, though later characters like Steve and his literal ice cream-slinging ability makes for a great ranged combatant too, while Max’s high kicking abilities offers great damage per second. No character feels useless, and several even offer exclusive traversal tools, and the game smartly switches to them automatically when you’re faced with their corresponding obstacles, like hackable loot chests for Dustin or chained doors for the boltcutter-wielding Joyce.

While much of the game may be tough but manageable for many players, the boss battles definitely feel more like they were taken from the era which they harken back to. They can be really challenging, so if you’re playing with a younger or less experienced player, it may take some trial and error before you determine how to best approach the fiercer foes, like flayed Billy with his intimidating charge ability or Nancy’s flayed coworkers who regenerate health when near each other. Fans will want to see it through though, and thanks to a great soundtrack, plenty of side missions, as well as the excitement of exploring Hawkins for the first time ever on consoles, Stranger Things 3: The Game is a blast no matter who you play as or play with.

st3tg

We would only caution playing this with your family for two reasons:

  1. It spoils the series, so watch that first!
  2. It contains much of the same vulgarity and gore as the series, so if you’re not one to let your kids watch Stranger Things, they probably shouldn’t play it either. It’s pixelized, so likely not as upsetting, but you still spend a lot of time bashing rats and Russians with various weapons.

Along with all the game’s own merits, the great meta quality about Stranger Things 3: The Game is how it may help revitalize the bygone era of licensed tie-in games. While many detract from such games, we’ve always loved them and it seems like Netflix and games publisher Outright Games (Adventure Time, How to Train Your Dragon) are prepared to lead the effort to keep those games alive. Stranger Things 3: The Game is a reminder that tie-ins can be fun and worthwhile for fans who want to see their favorite series in a new light.

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Steam

Genre: Retro action-adventure

Price: $19.99

Co-op Modes: Local split screen for two players

ESRB Rating: T – fantasy violence, mild blood

Developer: BonusXP

Publisher: Netflix

 

 

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