Licensed games tend to be rather divisive. There is typically a lot of things that need to be done, not a lot of budget,s and an overwhelming sense that brand recognition is the most important thing. There are outliers, such as Marvel’s Spider-Man, just like there are massive misses, including Marvel’s Avengers. With player’s memory of Marvel’s Avengers in full force, is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy the experience we should’ve gotten or a reminder of the problems that come with licenses?
Recently I rewatched some older comic book series from my youth. The big thing wasn’t how well these stories held up, but rather, how these interpretations just felt right. This is absolutely a thought when it comes to Spider-Man and the well-established and commonly known mythos, but not so much Avengers. However, with the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), we have another franchise that has established these characters. While Guardians of the Galaxy is part of the MCU and established some things, many of the characters and settings are not established enough to create expectations in the average player.
The reason why I bring this up is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has ample room to introduce Lady Hellbender, Blood Brothers, and many others without too many expectations set in place. It also makes the story a little easier to handle, as there are enough familiar elements for casual Marvel fans to feel like they know what’s going on, be it knowledge of Thanos, The Collector, the Guardians dynamic, without that sense of knowing what is going to happen or disappointment in a shift in decisions, something that always hovers over a notable character like Spider-Man’s Otto Octavius.
So Many Reminders of the ’80s
As for the story itself, there are a couple of events going on at once. It all begins with Peter Quill, still on Earth, listening to records from Star-Lord, before joining the ragtag group of heroes known as the Guardians of the Galaxy in the present. They’re doing a job, things naturally go south, causing a chain of events that conclude with an adventure to stop the Universal Church of Truth. It sounds like a lot and works for several reasons.
First, we have the aforementioned sense of these characters and much of the setting feeling fresh for a good number of players. From there, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy touches on some key elements that made the movie work so well. There is a lot of heart, especially when seeing Peter’s past, with the welcome choice to make Star-Lord less of a goofy leader and far more competent and compassionate than meets the eye. This is largely what the dialogue options offer. I can make a poorly timed joke, join in on the team’s fun, attempt to band them together or relate to those around me. While some choices impact later events, they largely exist so players can decide which version of Star-Lord they want to be.
Just One of the Interesting Locations to Explore
Humor is also a fairly important part of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. More than once I laughed at Drax the Destroyer failing to understand figurative statements, being called out, or just deciding to make a joke, which much like real life, almost always goes poorly.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the gameplay. Often times it feels rather hit and miss, largely due to an overly segmented design. Every stage is separated into different elements. Sometimes there is a battle, other times a puzzle, with the solution almost always using a character a specific way and/or look at the room with your helmet on.
As much as I praise the creativity, as every member fills some kind of role needed to progress, it makes some levels feel odd. How can I piss off a powerful enemy, attempt to escape, but only encounter enemies in two or three places? Why traverse a dangerous forest only to go largely unnoticed? Even leveling works exactly like that. Fights unlock abilities and resources found on the ground give perks for Star-Lord, giving players two distinctly different paths to upgrade.
Perhaps… you Shouldn’t Make a Joke
It also doesn’t help that combat doesn’t feel particularly satisfying. Star-Lord can fight, his Element Guns make quick work of enemies, have different elements to break shifts/inflict status aliments, plus melee, finishes, combo attacks, and more. However, the best tactic for both points and success is to command your team. Have Groot use Entangle on a group of enemies holding them in a single spot, followed by Rocket Raccoon blowing them away with a Cluster Flark Bomb. It’s fun in short bursts or once a new ability is unlocked, there just isn’t enough going on to make the experience stand out.
Even if the gameplay doesn’t stand out, so many other things do. One delightful addition is unlockable costumes. Levels contain multiple hidden costumes to change up your team. These include costumes inspired by events, the movie ties in and even comics. A nice bonus to reward players who explore.
Levels are also varied and interesting. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy uses the space setting to its advantage, with a killer ‘80s soundtrack that is surprisingly used well. For example, I Ran, the iconic song by A Flock of Seafulls, plays as Star-Lord and the team navigates through a space structure that is falling apart. This is just one example, with many others playing at surprisingly well-placed times.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Review Verdict
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Despite having some bumps, the core story, character interactions, and setting more than make Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy worth playing. I found myself amused by Star-Lord’s antics, gripped by his past and curious about the future. Throw in some delightful songs, weird situations, and a fascinating setting that requires a team of at least some level of teamwork to accomplish and you have a game worth exploring. – Grant