If you just can’t wait for the nostalgia-fueled second season of Stranger Things, well, there’s a new nostalgia-fueled mobile game based on the first season of Stranger Things.
The game, which is available as a free download on both Android and iOS, looks like a long-lost SNES classic. (The icon is even an old-school cartridge.) It plays out like a top-down action-adventure, with a pixel art style reminiscent of games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. You start out as Chief Hopper exploring Hawkins Lab for the missing boys; it’s a very loose interpretation of the Stranger Things story where the characters and locations are roughly the same, but events play out slightly different. I definitely don’t remember a scene in the show where Lucas fights an evil scientist.
One of the great things about the game is that it was designed around the touchscreen, so you don’t have to mess around with fussy virtual buttons. You move around and interact with things simply by tapping the screen and it’s all fairly intuitive, if a bit simple. But the game is also surprisingly expansive, especially for a licensed tie-in. There’s combat, as you’ll have to punch your way through guards and wildlife, but also some light puzzle solving. In order to get through Hawkins Lab, for instance, you first need to disable a series of security lasers.
There’s a touch of Metroid to the game’s structure. While you start out as Chief Hopper, you’ll slowly unlock more characters, each of whom has different abilities. Lucas, for instance, has his trusty slingshot for hitting switches that are across big gaps. As you play you’ll come across areas that you can’t access, like a fallen tree or a gate to the Upside Down, which you’ll need to come back to once you have the right item or have found the appropriate character.
The Stranger Things game isn’t as good as its clear inspirations — if you’ve spent some time with the SNES Classic Edition recently, that’ll be obvious. But it’s still a lot of fun, and a big step above the majority of tie-in mobile games. It’s big and challenging, and finally gives you the chance to see Chief Hopper punch an owl.