Stranger Things 3 spoilers: Joyce’s [blank] isn’t in the [blank]

Watch Winona Ryder do her best Zangief impression

When it comes to niche genres, they don’t get much smaller than the “games featuring Winona Ryder” subsection of your local mom-and-pop video store. Other than a few small roles in various Beetlejuice games from the 1990s, she’s basically a nonentity in the world of interactive fiction. 

She did have a bit part in the Stranger Things mobile app though, which was definitely a step in the right direction. The proof in that pudding? She’s an actual playable character in Stranger Things 3: The Game. Not only that, but she’s a powerhouse, cutting chains with a wire cutter and taking out thugs with a spinning lariat move like it’s no big deal. 

Me being me, I took all this as potential evidence that Stranger Things 3: The Show would feature a GLOW crossover where Winona takes on all comers with a series of increasingly violent moves stolen directly from various Capcom characters. Sadly, the developers of the game told me that I shouldn’t get my hopes up. In fact, the Stranger Things 3: The Game PAX demo was designed specifically NOT to contain any spoilers. It features an original scenario designed just to show off some gameplay. 

But they can’t fool me. 

Stranger Things 3: The Game comes from the same studio that made the mobile app for the original series, and it shares a lot of similar design conventions. It mixes light action and puzzle solving in ways that add up to an extremely accessible experience. If you are a fan of the show, but aren’t super into games, you’ll be able to pick it up and jump right into the action without too much of a learning curve. The developers told us that the old Sierra point-and-click games, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, as well as the SNES Goof Troop title were all big influences on them. So while Winona might not go on to be the next Saturday Night Slam Masters champion, it’s nice to know that she has at least some definitive Capcom DNA in her systems. 

Most of the puzzles I experienced in the demo relied on co-op to solve with any level of ease. You can solve all of them in single-player as well, but it’s generally tougher that way. It’s an interesting way of going about adding replay value and variable difficulty, usually reserved for action games. They’re also working hard to pack it full of secrets. There will be 12 playable characters in all, each with their own unique special move. The list will include all the main protagonists from the series, plus a few extras for added surprises.

The devs know that the millions of people who are already in love with the cast of the show will get a lot out of focusing on them as much as possible. That’s part of why they’ve added an ample ability upgrade system to the game. Getting to power up and flesh out your party feels like taking care of a group of old friends, or better yet, helping your favorite kids in the neighborhood to grow up and survive a potential supernatural apocalypse. 

As for that spoiler, it’s sort of a switcharoo. The PAX demo featured an original storyline about Winona Ryder’s character Joyce and her old pal officer Cooper invading the Hawkins laboratory to find Joyce’s missing necklace. Along the way, they punch some trees and solve some classic Resident Evil-style puzzles (like turning some rat statues around and moving some block-dumpsters onto some pressure sensitive blocks) before fighting a gang leader who can pull a Kain-inspired Dragoon jump into the air before summoning a series of goons for back up. 

None of this is actually going to happen in the show. That’s confirmed, and that’s your spoiler. Sorry to everyone who was looking forward to a whole episode dedicated to a necklace hunt ending in wanton violence in a science room, but don’t give up yet. While I was at PAX, I asked Rocco of Mega64 if he might be interested in making Stranger Things 3: The Game: The Movie, and they didn’t say no. 

So here’s to hoping.

Jonathan Holmes
"Where do dreams end and reality begin? Videogames, I suppose."- Gainax, FLCL Vol. 1 "The beach, the trees, even the clouds in the sky... everything is build from little tiny pieces of stuff. Just like in a Gameboy game... a nice tight little world... and all its inhabitants... made out of little building blocks... Why can't these little pixels be the building blocks for love..? For loss... for understanding"- James Kochalka, Reinventing Everything part 1 "I wonder if James Kolchalka has played Mother 3 yet?" Jonathan Holmes