I’m not going to lie, games from Telltale have done very little to impress me lately. I’ve been very cautious of whatever episodic series they choose to create for one simple reason. The first episode is typically the best. Minecraft Story Mode and The Walking Dead: Michonne being two prime examples. You get one hell of a great setup and it’s sadly followed by filler and wasted senseless story mush, with some fleeting moments of excitement to see you through. Their take on the Batman universe was undoubtedly a return to form, they pushed forward new features, interesting mechanics, and a plot worth following. So you can imagine my anxious approach to their newly released Guardians of the Galaxy episode. Like many of Telltale’s previous works, this one shows heaps of potential, but will it be upheld? Time will tell.
Episode one has been fittingly titled “Tangled Up in Blue”, named after a song from the 70’s along with the rest of the episodes that can be seen from the main menu. Interestingly enough the game isn’t based on either the comic or the movie, but it’s clear from the get-go that the voice actors have drawn inspiration from the latter. What’s also abundantly apparent is that Scott Porter doesn’t fill the boots of Chris Pratt’s version of Star-Lord very well. I couldn’t help but feel a little distracted every time Star-Lord opened his mouth and Pratt didn’t speak. That’s not so much a discredit to Porter, but these are tough boots to fill and I wasn’t totally convinced that Porter’s take on the iconic role was handled as well as it could have been. The real star of the show is Nolan North as Rocket Raccoon, who nails the role down magnificently. Oddly enough I preferred North to Bradley Cooper. As for the rest of the cast, they pitch in some good effort and although it does fluctuate in quality from time to time, the overall delivery is passable.
I wont dish out too much of the story, but the plot for Guardians of the Galaxy is thrown straight at you. Literally, it’s mere minutes before you’re neck deep in trouble and the bond between each and every protagonist is highlighted in a commendable short space of time. The main antagonist is immediately revealed to be Thanos, the very same villain the movies have been working towards for the last few years. Here however, the Guardians are already a strong and united team and they’re off to put a spanner in the works. That’s about as far as I’m willing to go with the story thread, but what I will say is that there are several twists and enjoyable moments within this opening episode.
It’s obvious that Telltale have the spotlight on character engagement for episode one, and although you do primarily control Star-Lord for most of the episode, you’re given the ability to control each Guardian during one hell of an epic sequence. Each time a specific character got knocked on their ass, you would instantly take control of another Guardian to pick up the slack, and so on and so forth. It’s not clear whether this formula will carry through to future episodes, but if this is a sign of things to come, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Gameplay remains as you would expect, and if you’ve played previous releases from Telltale Games, you’ll know exactly what you’re letting yourselves in for. It’s button sequence galore with a few moments of actual character control. In Telltale’s take on Batman, they implemented a cool feature that had you sussing out crime scenes via investigation. That level of innovation seems to have taken a back seat for Guardians of the Galaxy, or at least for Tangled up in Blue. Don’t get me wrong, the quick time events are absolutely sensational and when you do have control of Star-Lord, you’re able to utilise a range of tools such as his jet-boots to traverse different tiers of the environment, and the added ability to talk to the team via your comms. It works magnificently, but one does hope that we see something different further down the lines.
The choice vs consequence aspect of play makes a minor appearance here, but nowhere near as dominant as what we’re normally subject to. It’s still too early to tell exactly how deep these consequences run or how they will be presented, but you’ll still witness “Rocket will remember that” and other similar instances for the first episode. There’s a heap of character engagement and a lot of conversation branches that you can follow if you wish to, and due to some decent (and at times hilarious) writing and dialogue, even for an opening, Guardians of the Galaxy has a good deal of promise. It’s fun, it sticks to the personality of the source material, and it’s gorgeously presented.
The game is running on the new and updated engine and much like Batman, it looks and feels tremendous. There’s some scenes that stand out above the rest, and certain scenes that look like Telltale could have worked a little harder on the animation, but for the most part this episode is more than visually pleasing. The same can be said about the amazing music, it’s not only catchy and refreshing, but the few tracks on show are brilliant. It really sets the tone of the adventure. One issue I couldn’t overlook however was the constant drop in frame rate. I wouldn’t mind as much if the game stuttered a handful of times per the entire play-through, but to have the game stutter in almost every scene / environment, well that took away some degree of immersion. Hopefully Telltale address this soon and sort the problem out before future episodes are released.
Tangled Up in Blue is a great start to what could be one the best servings from Telltale in recent times. The story and character engagement has been well set in such a short space of time and the conclusion of the episode leaves a great deal to be tied up. Visually there’s very little to groan about, but the constant dip in frame rate needs to addressed as soon as possible, and certainly before future episodes are released. It’s also far too easy to be distracted by select voice actors, merely because they attempt to mimic the movie counterparts and don’t quite live up to the same standard. With that to the side, this is a brilliant entry to a new series and one that could surprise us in the long run. The action sequences are perfect, the humour is on point, and the few mechanics we get to sample here shows a lot of promise for what’s to come.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.