Brought to life on the pages of late noughties comic books, Guardians of the Galaxy is a work of fiction that most avid comic book readers had never even heard of or had simply forgotten about prior to its prominent surge to movie stardom in 2014 that not only further extended Marvel’s ever-expanding universe, but almost succeeded in eclipsing anything a certain Queen’s based web-slinger or any one of a long list of Avengers could offer.
The staggering rise of Peter Quill, Rocket, Gamora, Drax and Groot, and Marvel’s seemingly never-ending grip on movie goers wallets is indeed an incredible feat; but before we part with our hard-earned money once again later this month for another helping with Volume 2, there comes a video game series based on the Guardians of the Galaxy universe to step into.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series brings spaces most loveable heroes to our screens in a way never seen before. Although its comic book equivalent failed to reach the adoring masses in quite the same way Incredible Hulk, Captain America or Spider-Man did, Marvel’s re-introduction of the largely unknown group to audiences worldwide in 2014 finally stuck, boy did it stick. But could Telltale transit that winning formula into a point and click adventure hit series?
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: A Telltale Series – Episode One Tangled Up in Blue: Xbox One [Reviewed], PlayStation 4, PC, iOS, Android
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: 18 April 2017
Episode Price: £5.19 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
It came as somewhat of a surprise to myself that the creation of writer Dan Abnett and artist Andy Lanning ultimately failed to make a long-lasting connection with its readers following its debut in 2008. A multi-species group consisting of a shamefully charismatic human, trash talking racoon, repetitive speaking tree, deadly green assassin with adopted daddy issues and a revenge driven blue beast banding together to fight evil across a far-reaching galaxy had more than just reader appeal, it was a sheer bloody work of genius, and is very likely the main pull of its recent success with 2014’s big screen adaptation.
As it goes, Guardians of the Galaxy adapts very well as a video game, its striking theme an almost perfect accompaniment to what Telltale is. The first of 5 episodes blends a canon story, absurd insults and all the thrills and spills of galaxy combat, but as first pilots go, Tangled Up in Blue gets the series off to a sluggish, yet promising start.
Putting players in the dancing shoes of narcissistic, cassette tape rocking, Element Gun blasting hero Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, who along with his unlikely band of allies begin the series by attempting to prevent the space law enforcement known as Nova Corps from succumbing to the might and power of the galaxies biggest baddie, Thanos.
Though, rather than all too easily opting to focus the sole glare of its story-based attention on the hulking Thanos, Tangled Up in Blue shifts most of its weight excellently to direct its aim in a completely new direction, or object in this case. The object in question, retrieved from the purple power hungry monster tight after an entertaining fight – an ancient artefact that allows its possessor the ability to relive memories shared with lost loved ones. It is then this mysterious relic that draws all of the remaining first episodes focus, rather than a delightful game of “who hates Thanos the most“.
Best known for its character, relationship building; when not indulging in the opening episodes scarce action sequences brimming with a rash of precisely timed QTE’s, Telltale manages to slow the pace down to an almost complete standstill as Peter Quill slowly wanders Tangled Up in Blue‘s mysterious opening setting and later aboard his Magnus Opus, the ‘Milano’, attempting to build on his newfound friendships with fellow crew members in order to learn more of their past and the way each operates.
It’s something you can’t fault the developer on. Telltale manages to connect each character together through a string of dialogue choices, in this case, a lot of quirky comments that spiral into the back and forth trading of insults that often go a touch too far, but that’s one of the franchise’s main staples and Telltale uses the source material well.
Lauded for its ability to hilariously shame another member of the team with little to no remorse, only to receive a childish insult or two back in response, the continuous ribbing of one Guardian to another are the foundations the team is built on. These slapstick retaliations work especially well with Rocket, as it does with most characters other than Groot, who as any moviegoer of the 2014 film will know all too well, solely lives off of those 3 heavily over-used words.
Conversing with Gamora to learn of her strained relationship with her sister, hassling and harrying Rocket to fix a weapon three times his own body weight or sharing an intimate conversation with Drax about the tragic loss of his wife and daughter at the hands of Thanos, Telltale exceeds where you’d expect it to, it drives home that connection factor, those wants or need to push the boundaries of its dialogue options to gather the most from the experience is a linchpin of previous series.
Group conversations, on the other hand, are an entirely different beast. As Star-Lord, a lot of what unfolds later in the first episode with player character relationships hinge on the players capacity to diffuse potentially combustible moments, keeping the group from descending into outright chaos as the always obnoxious loudmouth Rocket, driven by money greed bickers with a more civilised and rational Gamora.
At times the comradery shared between the Guardians spirals from childish to out of control in a hurry, placing Star-Lord in the middle of a thankless balancing act to keep the peace once the insults dry up.
When not taking some form of immoral pleasure from the ridiculous insults, enjoying the rocking soundtrack that’ll have you tapping your feet to the iconic beat of Electric Light Orchestra’s – It’s A Living Thing long into the credit roll, the extraordinary voice acting skills of Nolan North as Rocket Raccoon and a few nicely placed easter eggs, Tangled Up in Blue is your stereotypical Telltale game that bleeds a familiar colour, if not aged and over-used formula.
Aside from a well-written script that feels entirely at home with a Telltale spin and slightly below standard visuals for a series of this nature, Guardians of the Galaxy is at its best when throwing a medley of fast paced action the way of the player as each member of the Guardians is whipped up in a tornado of desire to take down Thanos in the early going. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable sequence of events as character shifting takes centre stage, but it’s over far too soon.
Drax’s flailing mean blue fists, the swiftness and guile of Gamora, spring and agility of Rocket, the sheer strength of Groot and cocky determination of Star-Lord, as a group the Guardians have all possible combat angles covered, the result: a fast flowing, interchangeable scrap with a mishmash of buttons that rival anything Telltale has produced in the past. The only problem is, we get but just a fleeting glimpse of this exceptional free-flowing combat sequences in the episodes short span time more is welcome in future episodes.
Guardians of the Galaxy works well as a video game. As a Telltale spin-off, its style and theme fit with everything that a model Telltale series represents. Sprung from the long forgotten pages of a Marvel comic book to Hollywood A-listers overnight, Guardians of the Galaxy‘s stock continues to grow, and this latest outing shows promise. As an episode, Tangled Up in Blue bears all the hallmarks of a Telltale series with exploratory moments and strong character building, but its slow pace and a low commodity of action sequences leave it with nothing but the promise of better things to come in later episodes.