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Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Episode 2 - Under Pressure
Score: 75%
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Introduction:

Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Episode 2 Ė Under Pressure has a lot in common with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but two things stand out for me: They both suffer from pacing issues and they both have a ton of heart. Telltale games often go through a sophomore slump, with second episodes in particular most commonly cited as the weakest in each cycle. Itís difficult to avoid; once the curtain falls on the opening act, the main plot thread begins to slowly burn up. Certain pieces need to be put into place to build tension, in preparation for the inevitable release at the end of the season. Surprisingly, Episode 2 Ė Under Pressure doesnít bother with it much. Instead, it does the unthinkable: it brings the overarching plot to an instantaneous halt that would have inflicted near-fatal damage to the narrative as a whole, had it not been done for the best possible reason. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable and surprisingly poignant chapter in the crazy lives of a handful of extremely endearing characters.

Up to Speed:

Before we get any further, weíre going to have to get into some spoilers, so if you havenít finished Episode 1 Ė Tangled Up in Blue, read no further. Seriously, some pretty insane stuff happened starting from the very first chapter, and I donít want to ruin it for anyone. So for real, get out of here until youíve played it through to the end.

Are they gone? You sure? Okay, wellÖ all that happened. Thanos, the Mad Titan himself, one of the big bads of the entire Marvel universe, was straight up killed, and as a result, the Guardians spent a chunk of Episode 1 Ė Tangled Up in Blue looking for a place to fence the body. Of course, they bickered about where they would offload the deceased Mad Titan, between a legally-dicey but lucrative deal with The Collector and simply turning it over to the Nova Corps (the ever-thankless "right thing to do"), there was a choice to be made. Either way, it really didnít amount to much. Hala the Accuser still showed up in her spaceship full of Kree corpses and gutted Star-Lord like a fish.

Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Episode 2 Ė Under Pressure opens at the exact moment Episode 1 smashed to black, with the final syllable of Peter Quillís exquisitely-timed expletive. Holy sh*t, indeed. It seems the Eternity Forge is imbued with the power to restore life to the dead, making it abundantly obvious why Thanos and Hala wanted it so badly. But the mysterious vision Peter received in the ether between his death and resurrection has left an impression, and our heroes desire answers. But in-between the Guardiansí numerous personal problems, the ubiquitous decrepitude of the Milano, and Halaís unrelenting pursuit, thereís no end to the comic strife.


How Do You Solve a Problem Like Rocket?:

When the power of the Eternity Forge is revealed, one of the Guardians is instantly possessed of a desire to use it on a loved one. That Guardian, of all people, is none other than Rocket Raccoon, the bitter, caustic techie/gun nut of a rodent. Itís no secret that Rocketís past is an awful one. How could it not be? Not only is he unable to relate to anyone, being a talking raccoon, but what should have been the joy of higher intelligence has been smothered by years of physical and emotional torment. His discovery of the Eternity Forgeís power awakens in him a long-dormant sense of hope. Perhaps if he returns to the place that made him who he is, he can bring back his first and best friend, an adorable cybernetically-enhanced otter named Lylla. As mentioned before, this chapter brings the story to a screeching halt, but itís a diversion that Iím not sorry for having experienced. In fact, I wouldnít complain at all if we saw something like this in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

This chapter bears a few unfortunate caveats, however. The first, Iíve explained. The other is that, as always, you have to put up with some truly awful moments that stem from an inexplicable inability of these characters to take "no" for an answer. With Thanos dead, Gamora fears reprisal from her ax-crazy cyborg nutjob sister Nebula, and sees Rocketís plan as counterproductive. Sheís not wrong on either count, but regardless of how you choose to proceed, you have to listen to Rocket and Gamora being jerks to each other and to Quill for no good reason other than meaningless drama. As I listened to these characters interact, I felt like I was watching a couple of teenagers pissing and moaning about not getting their way instead of grown individuals capable of compromise. This kind of contrived melodrama has been a long-standing gripe of mine ever since the digital blight that was Kenny from The Walking Dead. This is Guardians of the Galaxy, humor is essential in almost everything; its absence renders this kind of drama tone-deaf. Thank God for Drax and Groot.


Conclusion:

Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Episode 2 Ė Under Pressure is thankfully light on the quick-time events, though I actually managed to screw one up. (Yes, it turns out there is a fail state.) As a result, itís a stronger second episode than most. On top of that, I donít know how Telltale managed to get the narrative back on track after such a violent bit of mood whiplash, but overall, I think it works. What doesnít work is the stuff that has never worked. I look forward to the day when Telltale finds more nuanced, true-to-life methods of establishing and building interpersonal tension, and I believe it will come eventually.

Given the nature of this seriesí MacGuffin, Iím a little concerned about where it might be going. When death is established as something other than a visible, definite end, the stakes are almost completely removed. A cop-out is the last thing I want; Telltale didnít resort to one in Batman, and it shouldnít here, either. Ultimately, if you enjoyed Episode 1 Ė Tangled Up in Blue, youíll likely enjoy Episode 2 Ė Under Pressure, despite its flaws.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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