As soon as I heard ELO’s ‘Livin’ Thing’ on the opening menu of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, I knew I was going to have a good time. Sure, I’m already a fan of the franchise, but the fact that the game managed to embrace the pre-established tone of the series from the get go had me excited. The first episode, ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, manages to live up to my expectations with some great storytelling and enjoyable action sequences, though it does suffer from some of the problematic issues that are known to be found in Telltale Games’ episodic releases.
Going into detail about the narrative behind any Telltale Games release is a little difficult, especially since it’s typically the core focus of their games and the one thing that is left to the player to dictate. Going into too much detail would be unfair to anyone looking to play the game, so this is going to be a spoiler-free review. Let’s just say it’s another intergalactic adventure for the five-piece adventuring squad that sees them investigating another mysterious space Artifact – the Cosmic Forge.
Tangled Up in Blue starts with a hell of a bang, with a big twist hitting early that shows the series won’t be afraid to drift away from the conventional approach or shackles of the expected. Telltale Games have already shown they’re willing to put their own stamp on things and establish their own universe in the game; it reminded me of what they did in their Batman series where the Wayne family wasn’t quite what the player expected. It has left me excited to see where the series goes in future episodes and what could be in store for Starlord and his rag-tag group of companions…
Telltale Games’ approach to things has shifted the focus of the game from being primarily about the Guardians taking on a ‘big baddie’ to one that explores their personalities and how they react to different events. It’d have been easy to simply send them on a crusade against yet another nasty villain (and yes, a villain is established) but a lot of what you’ll see in the first episode is based around the Guardians themselves and their relationships with each other. Being able to dictate how conversations pan out and how you treat each character lets you learn more about them; we all know Rocket Raccoon has always been a lovable jackass, but speaking to Drax and Gamora about the tragic relationships they shared with their family is pretty eye-opening. There’s plenty of the trademark humour that’s associated with the franchise too, so you can expect an abundance of wisecracks and one-liners – it all felt on point too, with some jokes getting a genuine chuckle out of me. All in all it’s an interesting way to shift the focus of the game onto the narrative and not just all the action-packed set pieces that are typically associated with the franchise, showing that there is more to the Guardians of the Galaxy than just space-blasting skills.
That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of action in the game though, with plenty of QTE driven sequences that are full to the brim with enjoyable battling. They follow the typical ‘hit this button’ and ‘flick this stick’ approach that’s synonymous with a Telltale Games release, so there’s nothing you wouldn’t have seen before. It works as effectively as ever though, so there’ll be no complaints from a fan like me – if you’ve never enjoyed the approach in previous Telltale Games titles though, there’ll be nothing to change your mind here.
One area that could see improvement though was with the shooting mechanics. There were times when you would be tasked with shooting at enemies, but all it required was the mashing of the shoulder buttons. It’d have been a bit more enjoyable and interactive if the player were actually made to aim their shots too – other action sequences require you to line up the cursor with items, so the fact you didn’t when shooting felt odd. It’s not a deal-breaker and doesn’t really deter from the action sequences, but it would certainly be a bit more satisfying than just hitting some buttons to take out your foes.
Whilst the action sequences all proved enjoyable, the first (and only) puzzle sequence of the episode felt a bit underwhelming. It did introduce Starlord’s rocket boots that allow you to explore environments in a variety of different ways and across different levels, but I felt the location was oddly restricting. Each layer of the environment felt the same, whilst everything there was to see was placed in obvious plain sight; there was no feeling of exploration, but rather a dull sequence where the solution to the puzzle was glaringly obvious and practically told directly to the player. It wasn’t an awful segment, but rather a linear moment that offered no challenge or feeling of satisfaction – at least it introduces the player to the ‘slowest lift in the Universe’ though.
Of course, given that we’re playing a Telltale Games release, you can expect a few technical hitches throughout the game. There’s a bit of stuttering in some scenes with the game seemingly struggling to progress from one scene to another at times, whilst I also suffered a crash that demanded I reset the game. It left me worrying every time the game started to hang a bit – something which could be quite common. I’d have thought that Telltale Games might have ironed out most of these glitches in their engine by now, but they’re still apparent. That being said, it’s a lot better than what I saw in their Batman release, so there are signs of improvement – they just haven’t quite hit the nail on the head just yet…
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series – Episode One ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ delivers an enjoyable narrative-driven experience that utilises the source material perfectly, offering a deeper insight into the characters themselves rather than just focusing on pushing out non-stop action sequences. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of excitement in the episode to keep you hooked until the end, but learning more about the characters, their history, and the relationships they share with one another was great and something I’m looking forward to seeing more of.
There’s nothing new here gameplay wise, but it’s not a problem given that it’s already proven to be a successful blueprint. Besides a slightly dull puzzle sequence and the technical issues that seem to always plague Telltale Games releases, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series – Episode One ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ offers a thoroughly enjoyable introduction into what I’m sure will be another incredibly successful series for the team.
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: 18/04/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Mac, Mobile Devices