At first glance, Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales is just another match-stuff RPG. It has Stranger Things window dressing, but it never quite captures the things that made the Netflix series so great. And then you enter your first portal and the game transforms into something else.
The basics here will be familiar to anyone who has played Puzzle Quest. You have a range of characters represented by different colored shapes – in this case, cubes – and you fight monsters at the top of the screen. Matches hurt the monsters and reinforce your special moves.
Different colors are stronger or weaker compared to others, and different characters have different kinds of special moves. Some can heal, others attack specific enemies or send out waves of damage that affect everything they touch.
You fight your way through a few waves per level, win some coins and XP and upgrade your characters, then do the same thing all over again. There is a gacha mechanic that also allows you to attract new characters to your team via a radio. So far, so standard.
And then the first portal happens and something special happens. The game drops some roguelite elements – your HP and energy are carried over to the next fight, you unlock different boosts and buffs between fights, you can choose which direction you want to go, and you can control your squad for that Duration of even powerful characters add portal. It’s not very deep, but it’s deep enough that things suddenly get pretty interesting.
These portals are only open once a day which is a bit of a shame as they show how average the rest of the experience is. It’s fun to make matches and kill monsters, but it’s exciting to make decisions and make your team stronger in interesting ways as you do it.
Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales has some nice ideas, but they don’t always let them come to the fore, and that’s a shame. It’s worth trying out even if it doesn’t do as much as it could with its license or best parts.
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