By Marty Mulrooney
Under Pressure is the second episode of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, a new five-part episodic adventure game from Telltale Games (The Walking Dead: A New Frontier). In Episode 2, the recently resurrected Star Lord and his crew must flee from Hala the Accuser and her army of Kree soldiers as Rocket Racoon tries to come to terms with his troubled past.
Telltale promised that each episode of Guardians of the Galaxy would delve deeper into the backstory of a main character and Episode 2 is undoubtedly Rocket Racoon’s episode. Continuing right in the middle of the swear word that was cut off at the end of the premiere, Under Pressure begins with the Guardians pulling off evasive manoeuvres in the Milano to the tune of ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’. Originally released in 1972 by French-American rock group King Harvest, this reviewer was more familiar with the cover version released in 2000 by British alternative rock band Toploader (for shame). What a surprise – the original version is by far the superior tune of the two and it fits perfectly into the Guardian’s of the Galaxy universe.
Having witnessed the incredible power of the Eternity Forge, Rocket asks Peter for a huge favour not long after the opening credits and, having pissed him off royally in the previous episode, this reviewer found it hard to say no. However, by promising Rocket and sticking to your word, Gamora will become annoyed because Nebula will probably be killed by the Nova Corp as she tries to steal back Thanos’ body… decisions, decisions! What follows is undoubtedly a side-story that puts the main narrative on hold, but it’s so well put together and told that only the most cynical gamer could complain. Rocket is a wonderful character that can sometimes feel a bit one-dimensional. Here, he’s given a chance to shine beyond sarcastic quips and technical tinkering. (Mild spoiler: it comes as no surprise that his backstory is eventually revealed regardless of your original decision – it’s too good to waste.)
Returning to the ominously named planet Halfworld, Rocket finds a pile of rocks in the forest that kick-starts one of the finest flashback scenes Telltale Games has ever produced. The relationship between Rocket and Lylla the otter is beautifully realised and fleshed out in an incredibly short space of time. Nothing will be spoiled here, but suffice to say Under Pressure is well worth playing for this sequence alone – it’s bloody marvellous.
The rest of the episode is pretty by-the-numbers, with a fun quick time event sequence involving unstable gravity – synchronised perfectly to ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us’ by Sparks – thrown in for good measure. The scenes involving Nebula are highly entertaining too and it will be interesting to see how her relationship with Gamora and the rest of the Guardians pans out over the course of the series.
Everything that worked in Episode 1 – the great voice acting, the catchy tunes, the strong sense of humour – returns for Episode 2, along with a surprising amount of drama and emotion that elevates the overall experience. Under Pressure doesn’t reinvent the Telltale wheel (the animations are still a bit clunky and interaction is limited), but it certainly puts its own unique spin on things. The backstory of Rocket hasn’t really been covered by the films either, so it’s great to see Telltale going off in an interesting new direction with this alternative universe. Fingers crossed Groot gets similar treatment in a future episode! If Episode 3 can get the intriguing main narrative back on track, Telltale could be on to a winner.
8 OUT OF 10