It almost goes without saying that the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far is James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy, so it makes sense they're getting the first adaptation in Marvel's new push for video games. The first episode of Telltale's Guardians of the Galaxy takes a lot of inspiration from the movie to the point where it feels like a knock-off. There's the 70's soundtrack, the same cast of primary and secondary characters with voice actors doing their best to emulate their live-action counterparts (Nolan North's Rocket Raccoon is phenomenal). The game opens with the team already being well-established, and the Nova Corps. asking them to help defeat Thanos. This start could legitimately follow the end of the movie if it wasn't for Groot being all grown up. The game's going for the same tone, but it always comes off feeling like an uninspired copy. The humor is lacking, and the action doesn't even live up to Telltale standards.
The game gets better in its second half, as it both starts pulling more from the comics and goes its own original route, but that all hinges on a pretty heavy spoiler. Telltale's knack for dialogue starts shining through later on as well, as the major drive of the game comes from navigating the relationships between five very different characters. Big decisions usually come down to supporting one teammate or another, potentially causing rifts in the team. This episode has you playing as Star-Lord, and while he's not a bland character, this goofy everyman feels like too easy a choice for the protagonist. As the makeshift leader, he's got to make the decisions and keep the peace, which isn't new Telltale territory. Oddly enough, he's a much more interesting character when you're not locked in conversation. One small section involved getting around using his rocket boots, which cleverly adds verticality to exploring. While in free-roam you can also call your teammates from your helmet, which is a nice touch for additional world-building. Telltale's never a fan of giving you too free of movement, but here it's, unfortunately, the best part of the game.
Technically speaking, this episode may be the jankiest Telltale release in recent memory. My playthrough was rife with constant stutters and even a full-blown crash during a low-key scene. Tangled Up in Blue has its moments, but overall plays things too safe. Tonally it's an uninspired riff of the movie, which makes anything interesting it does in terms of story fall flat. Since every episode will feature a different playable character, it's entirely possible future entries will take more risks.
Guardians of the Galaxy Episode 1: Tangled Up in Blue was developed and published on Xbox One by Telltale Games. It was released April 18, 2017, for $4.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
To find reviews for the other episodes (as they become available), check out the Guardians of the Galaxy review hub.