To preface this review, I feel like I should admit that my relationship with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (the property, not this game) got off to a bit of a rocky start.
Outside of maybe some brief mentions in an issue of Wizard or ToyFare, I knew nothing about them, leaving me relatively neutral. Then some geniuses at Archie decided to interrupt the proceedings in their eventually record-breaking Sonic the Hedgehog comic by bringing in Jim Valentino, a writer/artist who had worked for Marvel on the Guardians of the Galaxy book, to derail things by doing an “spoof” of his own work called “Freedom Fighters of the Galaxy.” This lasted for not one, but two issues, which amounted to me asking “what the **** is this ****?!” for two months.
I don’t think anyone outside of the Archie offices was impressed by this bit of turnabout; suffice to say, this period of that comic is known as “The Dark/Dork Age” for a reason.
Fortunately, between then and now, something wondrous happened: Marvel Studios. Following their success with Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, and whatever else came before, I was more than willing to give whatever they came up with a chance. And I’m glad I did, as I do now consider myself a Guardians of the Galaxy fan.
Now, it probably goes without saying, but just to be safe: I know that there have been many iterations and versions of the Guardians over the years, and what we saw in the movie was but one. That said, you can rest assured that Marvel and Telltale Games went the safe and recognizable route and have presented us with a game based on what we know from the 2014 motion picture (though I can’t speak for the just-released sequel or the animated series, as I’ve seen neither yet). I don’t think it’s supposed to follow the continuity of either, but I don’t know for sure. Suffice to say, if you’re familiar with and like that first movie, you should be fine going into this game.
If you’re not familiar with Telltale’s style of gaming — which admittedly, this is my first (I have Back to the Future, I just seriously need to get around to playing it) — they’re sort of like an evolution of the old Full Motion Video (FMV) games you’d see on CD-ROM systems like the SEGA CD back in the early 90s. For those who don’t know what that means, they’re very largely story driven, and you don’t have direct control over the characters except in a few select instances, and not usually for anything particularly dynamic.
Instead, you’re controlling the direction of the story through various prompts which come up throughout what are effectively ongoing cutscenes. Enemies are attacking, so you’ll be given prompts to shoot them using your trigger buttons to activate Star Lord’s blasters. You’re flying along with your jets and about to run into something, and you’ll get a prompt telling you what button or direction to press to avoid or otherwise navigate the obstacles. Mess up, and things can take a different direction in the course of the action. Fortunately, unlike some games I’ve played which utilize Quick Time Events (QTE) to horrendous effect, you’re given a fairly generous (albeit not too generous) window to make sure you get things right — in case you’re like me, and easily messed up because every platform holder has a different idea of which button should be designated “X”.
Perhaps even more often, however, you’ll be prompted to make a choice from one of four (occasionally fewer) responses when someone talks to you. These are often (but not always) timed, with the timer running out defaulting to the “…” choice. Some of these choices also have long-lasting effects, indicated when you respond and you’re told that one character or another will remember that.
That said, there are times when you’ll occasionally take direct control of Star Lord and explore the surrounding area. It’s nothing too deep, but like a more in-depth version of investigation in something like the Ace Attorney series.
All in all, it’s a fun way to experience a story, and Telltale Games are the masters of this craft.
Storywise, I don’t want to get into too many details, because it’s really hard to talk about this game without revealing spoilers. And really, things get rolling quickly enough that there is very little room to say anything without delving into them.
I will note, however, if you’re interested in how “this bunch of a**holes” came together, you’ll probably want to have seen the first movie before going into this, because Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series seems to assume you already have a general idea. It’s not necessary, strictly speaking, as you still get a good feel of who these characters are and what they’re doing here, making it easy to go in blind.
The character designs and set pieces all seem on-target, and while the graphics aren’t anything mind-blowing, they still work in a stylized way and get the job done. I don’t have much of an ear for music, so I can’t tell you if any of the soundtrack uses actual mainstream pop culture songs as the movie does; I’d wager not, though the music used still manages to convey the sense of atmosphere almost as well. For my money, the voice acting is fine. Maybe not award-winning, but well past what we got in those SEGA CD games I mentioned before.
Reviewing a game like this is kind of tough, since it’s not quite like reviewing a game under normal circumstances. Either you’re into this sort of thing, or you’re not.
Me? I’m definitely into it. I enjoyed the character interactions, there was some funny dialogue and touching parts here and there, and just gave me more of what I liked about this motley crew from the movie.
That said, it’s a pretty short ride — I completed it in just over an hour and a half, which isn’t altogether too bad for $5.99 or less (depending on if you go with the Season Pass or à la carte). There is plenty of replay value in this one portion, though, as you can go back and make different choices, with whatever you choose carrying over into future chapters. Plus, you’re greeted at the end with a graph showing how many people made certain key choices the same way you did versus how many didn’t, in case you want to go back and hop on the more popular bandwagon.
If you’re looking for a game that’s less demanding on your reflexes while avoiding being a passive experience altogether, or just a fun story and characters to follow, then I can definitely recommend Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series – Episode 1.
Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series was released for the Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC, and mobile on Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 at a price of $5.99, or as part of a Season Pass with all five episodes for $26.99.
A review code was provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.