Minecraft: Story Mode – The Or­der Of The Stone

360, iOS, PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Mo­jang, Tell­tale Games De­vel­oper Tell­tale Games For­mat 360, An­droid, iOS, PC, PS3, PS4 (version tested), Vita, Wii U, Xbox One Release Out now

Stamp­ing Tell­tale’s heav­ily au­thored nar­ra­tive tem­plate onto Mo­jang’s world of un­bri­dled player cre­ativ­ity is a curious no­tion, and a mar­riage that seems dishar­mo­nious from the off. “It’s bet­ter when you make it your­self,” says one char­ac­ter af­ter an­other crafts a re­place­ment sword, and most play­ers will find them­selves nod­ding along in agree­ment.

Even once you’ve made peace with the for­mat, the prob­lems are not in­signif­i­cant. The pac­ing of this open­ing episode is strangely un­even for a stu­dio with such sto­ry­telling ex­pe­ri­ence. And while Minecraft’s aes­thetic has taken on mean­ing, that util­i­tar­ian look is an un­com­fort­able fit for a pre­sen­ta­tional style that draws from the vis­ual lan­guage of TV and cin­ema. Even so, its ac­tion beats fare bet­ter than its clumsy ex­ploratory third­per­son se­quences, with their re­stric­tive cam­era an­gles and lim­ited in­ter­ac­tions.

A younger au­di­ence may not no­tice, but it’s dis­ap­point­ing, too, how closely this ad­heres to the stu­dio’s es­tab­lished for­mula – two or three se­quences share alarm­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties with The Walk­ing Dead, al­beit a PG-rated cut. And given that its gen­tle hu­mour and sim­ple plot­ting are con­sid­er­ately tuned to its tar­get de­mo­graphic, it’s strange that play­ers aren’t given more Pro­tag­o­nist Jesse can be male or fe­male. Both lead ac­tors put in solid per­for­mances, though for once we favoured a male – Pat­ton Oswalt may sound slightly too old in the role, but his comic tim­ing is typ­i­cally strong time to make de­ci­sions, and that QTE se­quences are of­ten un­for­giv­ing in their tim­ing. In­deed, while but­ton com­mands are eas­ily parsed, blocky ar­rows in­di­cat­ing D-pad or ana­logue-stick in­puts can some­times be missed in the heat of the mo­ment.

If cer­tain plot devel­op­ments won’t sur­prise many adults and the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion is a lit­tle thin at this early stage, there are ideas and themes here that will res­onate with play­ers of the right age. The cen­tral set­piece – a con­ven­tion for bud­ding builders goes pre­dictably awry – is imag­i­na­tively re­alised. And if the pride felt at the ef­fort in­vested in har­vest­ing re­sources and build­ing colos­sal struc­tures is lost, there is comedic mileage in the speed and sim­plic­ity of the process, as four friends knock up a 30-foot mon­stros­ity in a mat­ter of sec­onds. The voice cast is strong, too, par­tic­u­larly Ash­ley John­son as the coura­geous and like­able Pe­tra, al­though Jesse’s pet pig, Reuben, steals the show with lit­tle more than a hand­ful of ex­pres­sions and squeals.

For par­ents, there’s a psy­cho­log­i­cal fas­ci­na­tion in wit­ness­ing your off­spring’s choices – as well as the pride or hor­ror that re­sults from see­ing them test their so­cial skills and morals. But while many kids will rel­ish choos­ing the name of their gang, and de­light in the re­minders of that de­ci­sion, some will be left won­der­ing why a world that nor­mally af­fords great agency doesn’t of­fer more room to shape their story.

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