A terrible way to play a very good game. That pretty much sums up our thoughts on this cloud version of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy on Switch. Where we've previously rated cloud versions of the likes of Hitman 3 and The Forgotten City as worth your time and money — with the caveat that streaming has its inherent foibles — Marvel's action-packed adventure just cannot cut the mustard.
This is a game that's jam-packed full of busy fight sequences, sequences that only get more intense as the story goes on, and we found that even on a flawless 5G wireless connection, or a superfast wired one, we had non-stop issues with input lag, stuttering, huge resolution dips, full-on freezes and disconnections. When you've shelled out a frankly ludicrous sixty pounds or dollars for the privilege, having a message frequently pop up that servers are currently strained as your experience turns into a slideshow... well, it's infuriating to say the very least.
Traversal through levels here — which is mostly made up of simple platforming and the negotiation of a few tricky obstacles — becomes a chore. Hovering over items in order to pick them up feels messy, shooting Star Lord's pew-pew pistols is hit and miss, QTEs (which occur frequently) are rendered deeply frustrating as your inputs don't register on time and the resultant deaths, which see instant restarts in other versions of the game, incur annoyingly long loading times in this cloud version. It's absolutely the worst possible way to experience a game that deserves so much better.
It really is such a shame because played on other platforms, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is an absolute joy. Even if you're not a huge fan of the MCU (and this writer is certainly quite cold on that increasingly flabby cinematic universe) there's tons to enjoy here. With top-notch writing that, for our money, bests James Gunn's theatrical exploration of these characters, constant laugh out loud funny dialogue, brilliant acting and fabulously colourful and outlandish alien planets to explore, it's a game that takes you on a proper adventure and makes you feel like part of a real wacky crew of misfits that you'll grow to care about over its roughly twenty-hour campaign. It all feels refreshingly streamlined, too; this is a straight-up single player experience with no unnecessary bloat, no tacked on multiplayer or other modes to artificially beef things up.
Combat, easily the weakest part of the game, is scrappy and fairly simplistic, but it's still knockabout fun that suits the rough and tumble, adapt-and-survive style of the characters and gives you the opportunity to control each of the Guardians in order to take down groups of enemies. You assume the role of Peter Quill, AKA Star-Lord, who can boost around the air above throngs of foes or fire off rapid-fire blaster shots that eat into enemy health bars, but you also get to use the other gang members by holding in the 'L' button and dispatching them to whatever part of the battlefield requires their attention. Groot can bind groups of baddies together, enabling you to get in and melee them without fear of reprisal, Gamora has hugely damaging ninja attacks to employ, Rocket provides explosive attack options and Drax...well Drax is just very good at pummelling people into mince and throwing large objects around.
All of these various Guardian skills are also put to use in fairly simple but satisfying environmental puzzles that pop up as you proceed through levels; cutting ropes with Gamora's ninja slices, lifting obstacles with Drax, having Rocket work his way into tiny spaces to activate a door — that kind of thing.
When in combat, your team's abilities work on a cooldown system and, although it all adds up to nothing you haven't experienced before in other games, the fighting here is given a definite lift by how silly it all is. There's no scrap that isn't mostly played for laughs, and the constant witty banter between the Guardians as you battle mercifully never grates. A lot of it is contextual, too, so it never feels like it's just thrown together, instead complimenting the actions you've decided on as you fight and making you feel as though you're actually part of a team that's absolutely winging it at all times.
There's also the now obligatory suite of skills and perks to unlock, all of which require you to scan and investigate levels for collectible loot and none of this descends into a chore, it's never too hard to gather up what little you need to have Rocket kit you out with some new gun skills, and unlockable powers for each Guardian come thick and fast enough that combat never gets too samey before giving you something new to play around with.
There's some great art direction here, too, with breath-taking alien vistas, amazingly colourful environs and truly warped — and often hilarious — enemy designs to get to grips with. It really does feel as though you're on a whistle-stop tour of some extremely bizarre parts of a supremely wacky galaxy. And it's all backed up by a story that manages to pack in a ton of laughs and plenty of team-bonding whilst also getting personal, and at times even quite emotional, as it tumbles on towards a suitably madcap finale.
It'd also be remiss of us not to mention the amazing soundtrack. An absolute feast for your earholes, it's jam-packed full of classic rock anthems to play at your leisure back in the game's ship hub area, and often turns up as perfect background noise — and perfectly timed comedic relief — to some of the game's bigger boss fights.
Overall then, we like this game. We like it a lot, and if we were reviewing it on another platform it would take home a high score. However, everything we've said in praise of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is rendered entirely inconsequential as, if you choose to play it via this Switch cloud version, you're in for a frustrating, heavily disappointing and unreasonably expensive experience. Yes, you may have slightly more luck than us — we can only review what we ourselves encountered (although we were playing on a very solid connection) — and at times it does look wonderful and even cuts you some slack in terms of stuttering and lag, but it's such a hugely unreliable experience in the end that it never feels comfortable or satisfying. If you've got options, we'd highly recommend picking this one up on any other platform you can; if your only choice is Switch, well, we'd advise you steer well clear.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a great game, a fun and colourful adventure full of excellent writing, brilliant acting and plenty of wacky action and exploration to dig into. However, this Switch cloud version renders pretty much any praise we could lavish upon it entirely inconsequential as it serves up a truly messy, laggy and unreliable experience — even when played via our super solid, ultra fast internet connection. It is, in short, a disastrous and ridiculously expensive way to play through a game that deserves so much better. Pick this one up on another platform if you can and steer well clear of this mess.