Guardians Of The Galaxy: Tan­gled Up In Blue

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Aclose-up shot of a Walk­man; a ’70s rock stan­dard on the sound­track; a tableau of the epony­mous he­roes clam­ber­ing over one an­other to grab a shiny MacGuf­fin. Though it’s osten­si­bly based on the Guardians Of The Galaxy comics, the ti­tle screen im­me­di­ately makes it clear that Tell­tale’s lat­est will hew closely to the aes­thet­ics and tone of the 2014 movie and its im­mi­nent sequel. The choice of song is telling: ELO’s Livin’ Thing was set to fea­ture in James Gunn’s perky comic-book adap­ta­tion, but the scene was left on the cut­ting-room floor. It’s an apt pick for a game that of­ten feels as if it’s been as­sem­bled from al­ter­na­tive takes that weren’t quite good enough to make the fi­nal edit.

Tell­tale evokes the source ma­te­rial in su­per­fi­cial ways: the characters and set­tings just about look the part, though flat art di­rec­tion and light­ing give the whole thing a cu­ri­ously cut-price feel. For a developer whose work is so steeped in the vis­ual lan­guage of cin­ema, you’d think Tell­tale would be bet­ter at block­ing and edit­ing by now, but its ac­tion scenes are slop­pily con­structed, de­spite one or two in­ven­tive flour­ishes. Con­cep­tu­ally, these set-pieces are fine, but the ex­e­cu­tion is lack­ing. Even weav­ing and shoot­ing your way through an as­ter­oid field fails to raise the pulse.

Though you’ll briefly con­trol other mem­bers of the group dur­ing an ex­tended QTE fight, you’ll spend most of your time as Star-Lord, aka Peter Quill. An early in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­tro­duces two new ideas: Quill can make ra­dio con­tact with the other Guardians in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to Fire­watch, while the D-pad ac­ti­vates the jets in his heels to hover be­tween floors at de­fined points. Oth­er­wise it’s busi­ness as usual, as Tell­tale again strains to find ways to give the player mean­ing­ful in­volve­ment. Too of­ten ac­tions are ar­bi­trar­ily handed to you seem­ingly be­cause you haven’t been given much to do in a while. You’ll feel as if you’re di­rect­ing a sleepy ac­tor, or man­u­ally crank­ing a pro­jec­tor to keep the ac­tion rolling.

As ever, it’s clear the developer is more at home dur­ing dia­logue ex­changes, even if role-play­ing as a char­ac­ter within a group whose dy­nam­ics are wellestab­lished means cer­tain re­sponses feel out of place. Still, three cheers for Nolan North, whose take on Rocket Rac­coon is com­fort­ably the pick of the per­for­mances; he mightn’t be do­ing much dif­fer­ent to Bradley Cooper, but North’s nat­u­ral comic tim­ing el­e­vates the ma­te­rial. But de­spite his ef­forts, a cou­ple of big laughs (the world’s slow­est lift; Drax’s sin­cere lit­er­al­ism) and at least one gen­uine sur­prise, you’re left with a gnaw­ing sen­sa­tion that Tell­tale’s formula is be­com­ing as creaky as its en­gine. And that’s a feel­ing on which you’re un­likely to get hooked.

Few of your de­ci­sions have ap­pre­cia­ble pay­offs, though a key choice risks an­tag­o­nis­ing a mem­ber of the group. There are strong hints that Star-Lord may face a strug­gle to keep the gang to­gether as the story pro­gresses

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