A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this app.
Ease of Play
The instructions are fairly detailed, although players may be confused about how some battle aspects work.
Violence & Scariness
Players fight monsters, who fight back -- but no gore is shown, really.
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Products & Purchases
Players can --- but don't need to -- buy in-app currency to play. This game is also based around the popular Netflix TV show.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales is a Match-3 game for iOS and Android devices, exclusively through the Netflix app. The game features some violence -- players try to attack and defeat out-of-this-world creatures, who strike back and can knock characters out of the game. But the battles aren't bloody or too intense, and while monsters slump over, nobody is explicitly shown as dying. Instructions are given through character conversations and in separate windows that pop up. Most are clearly written and easy to digest, although some aspects of the gameplay, such as why a seemingly random number of points like 273 is shown when an enemy is struck, can be unclear. Packages of diamonds are sold in the app's store for $4.99 to $99.99, but purchases aren't required to play the game.
Is It Any Good?
The app has a slight matching game twist and is clearly inspired by the show, but it's a lot of fun. Many of the standard match-3 puzzle features are included in Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales, like matching more than three like-colored shaped for stronger attacks. Certain color combinations also are reportedly more advantageous than others, although the ranking system can be a little confusing, since it seems that green matches have the most impact. Another instruction suggests that aiming for the color each opponent is shown with works best, although other color matches seem to have an equally detrimental effect. Players can use special powers the show's characters have by tapping on their card at the bottom of the screen when it becomes available -- prompting Eleven to deliver a psychic blow to the monsters they're fighting, for example.
The storyline isn't important, and merely sets up the next location kids will try to make their way through. Players will fight creatures they come across -- ranging from demon-like dogs to cheese puffs that have come alive. They can customize their team by choosing characters to be in battles, and they earn a lot of currency as they play that can be used to level characters up. They'll also pick up items that can help them, such as a slice of pizza that will heal team members. Opponents can strike when their attack counter reaches zero, and players can't do much to protect themselves -- they basically just have to absorb the impact before resuming fighting, which can make the gameplay feel a bit slow. The game features some neat nods to the show, such as a different version of battles that appears after kids have completed a series of them, modeled after the Upside Down, an alternate dimension that echoes the real world in the series. Fans will likely enjoy seeing major and minor characters move through familiar settings like a Hawkins, Indiana lab and arcade. But Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales can provide plenty of matching game fun -- mixed with a little intrigue -- even if players have never seen the show.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.