Licensed freemium games are the worst things that have ever been created by mankind. But if Netflix wanted to cash in on a “free” download that asks you to either wait 12 hours before your Eleven avatar ranks up to level two or pay $15, they could do so. And most of us would download the game anyway, because let’s face it, we’re all kind of stupid.
Fortuitously, the streaming monolith’s marketing and merchandising wing took pity upon the long-suffering drooling masses and dropped the totally free Stranger Things: The Game into app stores this morning. Forged with a mid-’80s Nintendo sensibility in mind, this new Stranger game plays like a tidy Legend of Zelda facsimile. Having made it through the first level, I can attest that at no point thus far did the app offer me a pile of in-game currency in exchange for a week’s paycheck, quite unlike some other licensed apps I can think of.
Once you select your difficulty (I recommend “Normal”) you start playing as Police Chief Jim Hopper, charged with rounding up the precocious preteens of Stranger Things who’ve somewhat predictably all gone missing. A hunt through the shady-as-hell and surprisingly dangerous Hawkins National Laboratory yields the location of Lucas Sinclair, which is great, ‘cos his ranged attack — I think it’s a slingshot? — compliments Hopper’s punching nicely. Opportunities to expand your attack options are quite useful ‘cos practically everything in Hawkins, even the owls, try to kill you.
Eleven, Joyce, and the other three kids — all with special individual abilities — join your party as the game progresses. But I can’t say what happens after the Laboratory level because, appropriately enough, just like Barb, I’m already stuck in The Upside Down portion of level two.
There are VHS tapes and Eggos hidden throughout the game, and evidently collecting them all unlocks a trailer and some exclusive footage or, y’know, some such visual trinket you’ll be able to see when the second season premieres in a few weeks anyway. But if you absolutely can’t wait until then — you friggin’ junkie — Stranger Things: The Game may very well tide you over until you can get a proper Stranger dose.