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Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Episode 1 - Tangled Up in Blue

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Just in time for the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Telltale Games has launched their own take on one of Marvelís more lighthearted properties. As you might expect, Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series features a tone that falls much closer to Tales from the Borderlands than Batman. And based on the merits of its first episode, Tangled Up in Blue, it doesnít quite reach the heights of either of them. Of course, this is a tablesetter episode, but that hardly gives it carte blanche to be mostly uneventful. I will say this, however: it finishes incredibly strong and ultimately sets the hook for the next four episodes.

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series looks likeÖ a Telltale game. Visually, Telltale games share a set of universal quirks and qualities. Animations tend to follow a very specific series of movement patterns, character models have a strange smoothness to them, and environments are generally well-detailed but static. The best thing I can say about the visuals is that I didnít run into any technical problems. All told, the presentation gets good marks from me, because the kind-of-cartoony, kind-of-not aesthetic works very well for this particular license.

Music, music, music. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series is all about that music, and it shows. You see the title of this episode? Yeah, the Bob Dylan song. Yeah, thatís everywhere here. Every single episode and every single achievement is named after either a song or an album title. And as much as I love Redboneís "Come And Get Your Love" and Blue Swedeís cover of "Hooked on a Feeling," the powers-that-be at Telltale have wisely decided to go their own way when it comes to licensed music. Itís obvious from the start, too: hitting you right off the bat with the Buzzcocksí "Why Canít I Touch It," and eventually attempting to make Hall & Oates "You Make My Dreams" its own. (Sorry, (500) Days of Summer still has the stranglehold.) Anyone who has heard Electric Light Orchestraís "Itís a Liviní Thing" and seen Boogie Nights has probably subconsciously forged an association between the song and the final shot of that film. Well, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series wonít break that link, even though it uses the song as the backdrop for its title screen.

Voice acting is actually in the make-or-break category; stories are told through the voices of our heroes, villains, and side characters. And while itíd be unreasonable to expect the cast of the films to reprise their roles, their understudies are more than up to the task. Honorable mentions go to Rocket and Drax; Nolan North makes a fine Bradley Cooper and Brandon Paul Eells a fine Dave Bautista.


Given the malleable, shapeless nature of comic book canon, itís difficult to tell at this point exactly where Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series is supposed to fall, but based on the events of Episode 1: Tangled Up in Blue, Iím going to go out on a limb and say nowhere near the Marvel Cinematic Universe and possibly not even near the source material. And this is apparent less than thirty minutes in.

You see, something really game-changing happens near the beginning of Tangled Up in Blue. I wonít go deep into spoiler territory until subsequent episode reviews necessitate it, but all you need to know is that Peter Quill (alias Star-Lord), Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Gamora, and Drax the Destroyer have come into possession of two objects. One of those objects goes into the bedrock of spoiler territory, and the other is a strange alien artifact known as the Eternity Forge. What does the Eternity Forge do? Well, for most of the episode, it acts as a receptacle for Quillís many, many libations. But in a galaxy filled with MacGuffins, it turns out to be much more than a cup, and shortly after it hits him with a powerful, lucid memory of his mother (as well as a hint that it might be more than that), it becomes readily apparent that a survivor of the fallen Kree empire with a serious chip on her shoulder has been seeking itÖ

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series does not appear to follow the quirky quad quite as theyíre depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so you need to go in as blank a slate as you can possibly be. I say this because certain characters might not behave as youíre used to seeing them. Quill and Rocket are almost bit-for-bit their movie personas, and as for Groot, well, what else could he be? For my part, I was kind of shocked to see Gamora wearing her heart on her sleeve the entire time instead of armoring herself in cynical stoicism. And while Drax ends up suffering a crisis of destiny, itís completely justified by the events of the episode, as well as what we already know of him (that is, if we know anything at all about him). It may not take long for you to adjust, however, as the dysfunctional family dynamics that drive much of the seriesí humor and heart is generally intact. And you can see the writers finding ways to work in other characters, like Yondu, Nebula, and the Nova Corps. Weíll almost certainly see more of them in the episodes to come.


I do not know if Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series features a fail state. Such is my usual reaction to Telltale releases when it comes to challenge. Itís beside the point, so much so that it often makes me wonder why the action sequences exist at all. During my time with Episode 1 Ė Tangled Up in Blue, I felt like I might have flubbed a quick time event or two, but I didnít get any feedback; the action sequences just kept going.

If you look at Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series as anything more than an interactive movie, youíre doing it wrong. These experiences are designed to get everybody across the finish line, by any means necessary. So in terms of difficulty, I suppose thatís a roundabout way of saying itís nonexistent.

Game Mechanics:

Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series is almost all talk, and thatís by design. The grand majority of your time with Episode 1 Ė Tangled Up in Blue will be spent dictating interactions between Peter, Rocket, Gamora, Drax, and Groot. This is carried out both in person and over the Com Link, the kind-of-a-mechanic-but-not-really that allows PQ to talk to his fellow Guardians when theyíre not in the same place. As always, conflict erupts in one way or another, and youíre often left with no choice between alienating one character or another. Iíve long found this particular aspect of Telltaleís storytelling to be incredibly tedious, and really wish they would move past this contrived way of building tension.

One sequence seems like it wants to hearken back to Batman; Star-Lord stumbles onto the aftermath of a very lopsided battle, and he ends up using his Time Scanner and Jet Boots in tandem to piece together the events and find a special item. However, I accidentally found the item before realizing exactly how the Time Scanner worked, which defused some of the novelty for me. Perhaps later episodes will make better use of it, but this time around, it feels like a missed opportunity.

Action sequences are always by far the weakest element of any Telltale game. They are so hands-off that they may as well not even exist. But exist they do in Guardians of the Galaxy, so how are they? Well, pretty much like the rest of them, if you discount the fact that the quick time events that constitute the "combat" govern the actions of all Guardians involved in a particular fight. But ultimately, if youíve played one, youíve played them all. Storytelling is all that truly differentiates one Telltale game from another.

If you canít get enough of everyoneís favorite superhero space opera, Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Episode 1 Ė Tangled Up in Blue is a fine way to pass ninety minutes. However, its poor sense of pacing is illustrative of the growing need for Telltale to drop the episodic format and just release each self-contained story as a complete package. But still, yíknow, ooga chaka!

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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