The scariest thing about Stranger Things VR is the haircuts

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Greetings, VR pals! I’m turning this week’s episode of Ian’s VR Corner up to Eleven with a look at the newly released Quest exclusive, TV tie-in title, Stranger Things VR!

From developers Tender Claws, Stranger Things VR is a dark and arty look into the minds of some of Hawkin’s most famous residents as you inhabit the body of the shows mysterious villain Vecna. But is it any good? Find out in this week’s epsiode of VR Corner as I play through the first 3 chapters of the game.

Cover image for YouTube videoLet’s Play Stranger Things VR Quest 3 Gameplay — A DORK IN HAWKINS — Ian’s VR Corner

So, I’m going to be brutally honest here. Stranger Things VR is a wonderful companion piece for die-hard fans of the show who want more lore, but for your standard helmet-head who just wants a cool new game to play, the first three chapters at least are severely underwhelming.

Rather than being a fully interactive dream-hopping experience, Stranger Things VR leads you by the hand through a very talky and linear experience that at times shows promise but in the first third of the game at least (there are 9 chapters in total so it may improve) the gameplay is fairly bland and repetitive.

During the first two chapters you get to play as Vecna and here, series fans will be able to learn about his back story, his relationship with ‘Papa’ and the events that led to his transformation from human test-subject Henry Creel into the mind-hopping Upside-Down denizen that stalked Eleven and her Party of pals in season 4 of the show.

Gameplay here is a simple affair that consists of wandering around in the dark one minute and using basic telekinesis powers to throw rocks a Demodogs then next. The most interesting thing about these sections has to be the movement scheme that has shades of Venom-esq swinging. Like the combat it’s fairly done well but ultimately it’s monotonous and mainly just acts as a backdrop as you listen to the voices arguing in Venca/Henry’s head.

Red Dead Re-Demodogs. I do love the colourful ‘telekinesis’ effect as it adds a bit of vibrancy to the anotherwise monochromatic levels set in Vecna’s mind.

Things get a little more interesting in Chapter 3, but only because it’s here that you get to see the stars of the TV show up close and personal — and yes, those nightmarish 80s pudding bowl haircuts look even more horrendous in VR than on the TV…

Unfortunately this star-powered excitement is short lived because this chapter also snatches away all movement from you. Rooted to the spot in a series of barely interactive events, you’re only there to witness the possession of Will Byers through Will’s own eyes. You can point a torch into the darkness of Will’s bedroom at one point and switch spooky scenes the next with the help of an old school viewfinder toy, but the scares are minimal and being tethered to the spot in VR is a massive bugbear of mine. I want to be in VR to exist in and interact with incredible worlds. I don’t want to be a passive bystander — if I just wanted to watch things happen, I’d turn on my TV!

Saying all that, I am a fan of the game’s vibrant visual style which embraces a comic book aesthetic that it works well with the property. Even that’s not without its problems though. The lighting during the first two chapters often descend into a darkness that confuses the player and leaves you feeling like you’re fumbling around, blindfolded until you spot a light source that you can head towards. And, like the gameplay itself, the landscapes in Venca’s mind quickly become repetitive. Things pick up again in Chapter 3 when you get to experience portions of the real world, with all of its colours and Easter eggs for the fans to spot but by this point I was struggling to stay engaged with the experience.

First impressions-wise then, I’d say this is a must buy for Quest owning fans of the show, but for everyone else it’ll be a bit of an upside-downer.

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