Telltale's take on the Guardians of the Galaxy kicks off a new adventure for the roguish, rebellious crew of sorta-heroes. Here's the spoiler-free summary: the first episode, Tangled Up In Blue, kicks off with our band of heroes chasing down Thanos. After their big rumble with the mad titan, the Guardians are left with some questions about their hero identities and a relic dubbed the Eternity Forge in their possession. The whole shebang looks like it came from the comic book series, but mostly plays like a vignette out of a would-be movie. Whether or not that's a good thing depends on what you want out of your interstellar road trip with this bunch of loveable misfits.
This opening chapter sets up multiple nemeses that the team will have to band together to take down over the course of the story, but more intriguingly it presents the value of life as a broad theme. The Guardians, and the player, will have to ask themselves how far they would go to save a single person or an entire species. That's pretty intellectual material for a group whose best zinger was "We're the Guardians of the Galaxy, bitch", but at least the game looks to tackle the heady topic with heart.
Creating equally viable dialogue options for well-known characters is a challenge, which is why Telltale has so often been most successful in developing original people within an existing universe. Guardians of the Galaxy faces an uphill battle here by putting you in the rocket boots of Star-Lord Peter Quill. Normally, a game that revolves around dialogue choices encourages you to roleplay the protagonist a bit and develop your own vision for the character. In this case, though, the lines that feel most like Chris Pratt would say them are the ones that consistently ring the most true. A more sensitive answer is usually laughed off by another Guardian, and any more angry responses just feel weird. Playing to the obvious answers is a perfectly pleasant experience, but it makes the game's central mechanic ring hollow at times.
Fortunately there are a few instances (minor spoilers ahead) where the choice feels like a real one, such as when you advise Gamora on whether or not she should reach out to her sister Nebula, or when you talk to Rocket about his possibly leaving the Guardians for good. Those conversations hint that this series could develop into the kind of narrative that Telltale can make at its best: one where the conflicts feel legit and the choices have weight. If that's how the future episodes trend, then we're in for something good.
When you're not in conversation, Star-Lord is either walking around and observing his surroundings or engaged in a QTE fight sequence. These scenes will be familiar for anyone with past Telltale experience; the studio's not pushing any envelopes with gameplay here, sticking with its standard moves. The balance of conversation with these other segments feels good, used as well-spaced breaks to pace out the long strings of dialogue. Nobody's playing this for engaging combat or an arduously challenging adventure game, so it's understandable that the action and puzzle scenes take a backseat to shooting the breeze.
The best endorsement for this collaboration is that it seems like a good cultural match. After past Telltale series ventured into the harsh worlds of Batman and Game of Thrones, Telltale needed a breath of fresh, funny air. This first installment teases some heavy stuff to come in future episodes, but even the somber moments of the first episode are bookended with the signature Guardians of the Galaxy absurdity. Calling anybody in this lineup of weirdos the "comic relief" seems odd, but Rocket and Drax are unquestionably the funniest and best parts of the game. A hungover Groot is one of the more giggle-worthy moments, and you should definitely read through Peter's messages when you log into the bridge terminal of his ship.
There's only so much to glean from the first two hours of a multi-part game, but Episode 1: Tangled Up In Blue is a solid introduction to the new series. Any Marvel devotees will most likely appreciate the chance to live through an adventure with this quintet and are already set to enjoy the whole ride as the new episodes roll out. But for the average player, this amounts to a new Telltale series that feels very much like the others. The studio has a formula and has been studiously applying it across geek fandoms. If that formula floats your boat, then jump on in, the water's fine. Otherwise, maybe hang tight and wait to see whether this series develops into another (good) or another (not so good).
This game was reviewed on PS4.