Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is pretty much exactly the kind of game that a fan of the Guardians franchise might hope for. But that plays out with some great bits and some not-so-great bitsif you’re looking at it from a parent’s perspective.
If you know anything about the comic book or movie versions of Guardians of the Galaxy, you know that they are a team of intergalactic misfits who have been almost accidentally thrown together. And they’ve somehow stuck by one another’s side in everything from sorta/kinda illegal profiteering to galaxy-saving heroics.
The team is led by the fame-and-female-attention-seeking Peter Quill, a.k.a Star-Lord. He’s joined by the green-skinned deadly assassin Gamora; Drax, a stoically serious and accidentally chuckle-worthy muscular heavyweight; Rocket, a genius raccoon lookalike with a knack for electronics and explosives; and Groot, a tree-like guy who reaffirms his identity with every verbal interaction.
The heroes in the game don’t look much like their movie counterparts, but they hit their marks well. And in this cinematic-and-linear game/tale they start out seeking some illegal profiteering … and then must save the galaxy from a powerful entity and a rabid cult. And, as we’d expect, humorous and heartfelt moments are part of the mix.
Gamers play as Star-Lord and gameplay is divided primarily into four intertwining activities: talking, environmental puzzle-solving, ship-piloting and battling. Players constantly have chances to talk and interact with others. And unlike some games of this stripe, dialogue and action choices definitely impact how the story unfolds.
Your choices can shape a mission into a laser-blazing gunfight or something stealthy and careful. Defending someone in a particular scene can give you access to an item that makes unlocking doors in a later scene much easier. And gathering up certain left-behind items can even open entire scenes that you otherwise might have missed.
On the battle front, players still only operate as Star-Lord, but they have several different abilities and attacks they can pick up, from the use of Star-Lord’s jet boots to elemental gun blasts. And Peter can send his Guardian pals in to use their special attacks as well, such as Groot’s enemy-binding root attacks and Rocket’s massive cobbled-together firepower.
Because of the increased impact of the choices you make and the conversations you have, Guardians becomes a game that preaches the value of listening.
Some players will have a tendency to want to fly by conversations and get to the action. But in this case, that’s a detriment. Interacting and listening well helps with later dialogue choices, and it sometimes helps supply solutions for puzzling situations. Not doing so can produce the opposite effects.
This game also strongly suggests that relationships—whether in the form of friendships or family members—all require work and effort.
Giving aid, relying on others and working as a team is an important part of play here. The game also focuses on the value of friendship, the need to take responsibility for the choices you make and the importance of making the right choices. Peter even considers the value of individual family members, using their strengths to support one another when when faced with the unexpected task of caring for a child. Ultimately the Guardians are all heroes who sacrifice for others.
There’s only occasional T-rated nasty language in the dialogue, including rare uses of the s-word and uses of “h—” and “a–.” But looked at from a certain perspective, this game could be considered very problematic on the language front. The characters here tend to use substitute cuss words in their verbal sparring—subbing in “flark” and “scut,” for instance, for far cruder alternatives.
Dialogue can also drift into discussions of booze-drinking and sexuality, too. Peter becomes aware that a casual sexual tryst he had in the past comes with unexpected consequences. And the other team members talk about that relationship: “You slept with a cop?”
Gags can wink in that direction, too. “It’s an impregnable fortress,” one teammate notes. “So how do we impregnate it?” another asks. And some female characters wear skimpy, flesh-baring outfits and display ample cleavage.
The game mixes in plenty of spirituality, too. Some cult-like figures, for instance, promote a religion that is backed by a powerful source of “faith energy” and produces miraculous results. And later a character is infused with that energy to become a “god.” Religion and faith—at least this particular religion and faith—are derided and definitely presented as something that must be destroyed.
Lastly, the combat on hand is often very frenetic and occasionally a little bloody. It’s not particularly problematic in its content, but there is a lot of trigger-pulling in the mix.
As is the case with the heroes at the heart of this franchise, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an oddly mixed bag.
The game’s lessons are solid and the story and gameplay are fun, but parents might not be pleased with some of the winking dialogue and sensual implications that it sends rocketing into the family room with the kids. And the game’s religious elements may warrant a conversation or two, as well.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.