Guardians of the Galaxy was the shot in the arm that the Marvel Cinematic Universe needed, opening the door to very different kinds of heroes in very different environments, all infused with loads of attitude.
It's still one of the most memorable Marvel flicks to date, and now with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hitting cinemas in a matter of weeks, gaming's best storytellers get a crack at spinning their own tale with this misfit team of space heroes.
Telltale Games has worked its episodic narrative magic with everything from The Walking Dead to Game of Thrones, with a dash of Minecraft and Batman as well, but Guardians proves a unique challenge: it tries to match the film's spunk while not actually having access to the actors' voices or likenesses. Which is rather strange, really.
We've had a play through the first episode, Tangled Up in Blue, so consider this a review-in-progress for now. Four more episodes are due in the coming months, so we'll update both the review text and score along the way as needed as the complete adventure takes shape.
Galaxy of choices
Telltale has its game design approach down to a science, and while each license it tackles does something a bit different, the core experience is largely similar. As such, Guardians of the Galaxy follows a familar path: it's essentially a choose-your-own-adventure game, in which your decisions and dialogue choices shape the events.
Every so often, you'll face a larger decision that can significantly change the course of the narrative, such as aligning with one force as opposed to another. But even the little choices matter: what you say to whom, and how that affects various relationships.
That's a pretty smart fit for this kind of volatile group, and Tangled Up in Blue shows the five Guardians – Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot – both coming together and splintering apart in some ways, with teases from the menu that future episodes may each center on individual members and highlight their own stories.
It's hard to get a feel for the story arc from playing just one-fifth of the total quest so far, but Tangled Up in Blue very much feels like it's setting the table. There's a surprising outcome to an early battle that guides the events thereafter, and we get a sense of where things are going, but there's no big payoff just yet.
It could be a couple episodes before we get some meaty results, but the first episode provides a solid opening hook. Just be prepared for how brief this intro segment is: we didn't even hit the two-hour mark before the credits rolled.
Packs a punch
As you'd expect from a property like this, it's not all about dialogue choices: there's also a bit of action and physical interaction in the mix, whether you're fighting against a big bruiser like Thanos or navigating environments in search of clues to help push the story forward.
Simple timed analog stick movements and button taps dominate the combat, at least in the Xbox One version we reviewed, which is pretty standard stuff for Telltale – and perfectly adequate, given the narrative focus. Moving around levels and investigating clues isn't the most fluid or exciting part of the game, which again is par for the course for these games. At least there's a decent navigational mechanic built around Star-Lord's jet boots.
Also familiar for Telltale adventures is some presentational clunkiness along the way. The actual character models can look rather nice at times, but there are bits of slowdown here and there, and some raw-looking textures along the way. Again, you have to consider the scope here with each episode only costing a few quid, but it doesn't feel like the game got a huge amount of final polish before publishing.