You know, I've never been massively into Square Enix's games, but this time, I have to hand it to them. In an E3 week that's otherwise been a fairly tame affair, it took some real chutzpah to announce not just a big-budget original property, but one that's a direct lampoon of one of the biggest licenses in Hollywood. Gordon Galaxy And His Funny Space Mates is the sort of genius you might usually expect to come from the very fringes of the indie market. A whipcrack satire, thrown together by a lone hobbyist with nothing to lose, and looking to get a few laughs before the cease and desist orders come in. But no: this is a full-on, big budget, triple-A endeavour - and crikey, are Squeenix ever playing with fire here.
As you might have guessed from the name, Gordon Galaxy is an extremely thinly veiled take on Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy. It puts you in the role of the eponymous Gordon, for a third-person action adventure romp supported by the rest of his crew, the Funny Space Mates. There's the hulking Drinx, whose cybergoth Kratos makeover just about makes him legally distinct from Dave Bautista's Drax, plus the sobre-minded green assassin Gammono, the walking shrub Good (catchphrase: "I'm Good!"), and the bafflingly named Wrinkly Rodeo, who's some kind of vile mammal not dissimilar to a raccoon.
Gordon himself is similarly spot-on, resembling Chris Pratt's character Peter Quill, but hurriedly reimagined as a Danish porn actor over the course of a weekend. He even has a superhero sobriquet ("call me Stairmaster"), which he constantly tries and fails to make into a thing, despite it being embroidered onto his red leather jacket.
Honestly, the character designs are razor sharp. Taken individually and out of context - say, on a courtroom projector screen - none of them would immediately make you think of Guardians. Even Wrinkly Rodeo manages to avoid looking too much like Rocket, with a horrid little beard that feels like it would be more at home in a rejected Pixar short about woodland stoners. But see them all as a group, squint a little, and you can't miss it.
That's all well and good, but where Gordon Galaxy really kicks into gear as satire is when you see the characters interact. Or rather, when you hear them. Because they never shut up. In the gameplay footage broadcast during Squeenix's E3 show last night, we were treated to a sequence where the crew walked from their spaceship, the Milanoo, down to a plain of weird yellow hillocks, in the rain. Just five characters, walking down a rocky slope, for a full minute and a half - a seemingly absurd amount of time to spend on something so literally pedestrian, given what I presume the airtime cost.
But this sequence wasn't about wowing us with visuals; it was a proof of concept for Gordon Galaxy's script. During that 90 seconds of footage, there were no less than eighteen gags delivered by the Funny Space Mates. It was absurd, like a green room full of half-cut standup comics, anxiously trying to one-up one another before going on stage. And every single joke, without fail, was ghastly.
Doesn't sound much fun, right? Well, here's the thing - the Banter (capital B very much deliberate) was written with such tonal fidelity to the patter churned out by Marvel characters, that I spent the first 45 seconds assuring myself that it must, in fact, have been really funny. Zinger after zinger was bellowed between the cast, each one somehow both more brash and more limp than the gag preceding it, without so much as a moment's pause for my mind to actually process what was being said.
When I did clock on to the fact that most of the jokes were just, well... vaguely adversarial statements, it made me wonder if Marvel movies are actually as tightly scripted as I think they are, or whether the good jokes are just strung together with enough relentless, hollow sass to make it feel that way.
I can only imagine the situation in the legal department of the House of Mouse right now. I imagine quite a lot of emails are being sent, and a lot of positions considered. I'm sure Square Enix's legal team know what they're doing. Hell, they already pulled this off once, with their game about the Avengers as painted on the sides of British funfair rides last year. But it was a bloody close call, and with the case only just having left the courts, it feels like they're sailing damned close to the wind doing it all again.
Nevertheless, I can't help but root for them. Just like Gordon and his Mates, they're a crew of plucky, outspoken underdogs with a seemingly impossible mission - how could you not get behind that?