If you can’t survive the 23 days until season two of Stranger Things finally comes out, then Netflix has your back. Today, out of nowhere, the streaming service dropped a 16-bit free-to-play adventure game for Android and iOS, based on season one of the hit show.
The game itself is a decently fun, though it won’t set the world on fire. You begin the game as Chief Hopper, investigating the disappearance of all four boys from the show, and as you progress you’ll unlock each as a new playable character with a different unique skill. The gameplay is simple, but a strong presentation and some smart choices like allowing all actions to be performed with a tap—including movement—make this a solid diversion. Plus, it’s completely free, so there’s not much to complain about.
Stranger Things is built on nostalgia—it takes place in 1983, sports a soundtrack that’s overflowing with jukebox hits, and features more than one instance of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s no surprise then that Netflix and developer BonusXP used the retro, hi-bit style that so many other nostalgia-provoking titles have, like the recent hit Owlboy and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, another tie-in game.
However, as some outlets have pointed out, the use of 16-bit graphics is technically an anachronism. America wouldn’t see a 16-bit console until the TurboGrafx-16 in 1989 (really the SNES in 1990), putting us a few years ahead of 1983. Interestingly enough, fans have already made an attempt at a more accurate representation of what Stranger Things would look like as a game at that time.
Created by a small indie team called Digital Eclipse, this adaptation of Stranger Things was planned for the Commodore 64, a now primitive-looking 8-bit computer released in 1982 that played games off of floppy disks. You can find our full coverage of this project here, but in short, it was a labor of love. And, considering the original NES wouldn’t even hit American shelves until 1985, this would be the way to play that’s most consistent with the time period.
It’s a nice history lesson and a clever project, but I’m sure developers and audiences can agree that the clean, detailed look we got from today’s Stranger Things: The Game is a little more suited to a 2017 mobile game. Combined with its neat puzzles, abundance of Easter eggs, and the fact that it’s coming to us free, there’s little to criticize about Netflix’s surprise gift. Enjoy as we all wait for our next trip to the Upside-Down, coming on October 27.