Minecraft Story Mode Sea­son Two: Episode One

If you build it…

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - REVIEW - Martin Kitts

Weav­ing a plot around a game that’s ef­fec­tively noth­ing more than a vast sand­box can’t be a par­tic­u­larly easy task. How can a sin­gle story or char­ac­ter pos­si­bly en­com­pass the count­less dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences you may have within the make-your-own­fun world of Minecraft?

If you’ve only ever played it as a sort of col­lab­o­ra­tive vir­tual Lego set, you might not rec­og­nize the bustling so­ci­ety Tell­tale’s writ­ers have con­jured within Minecraft’s bor­der­less, goal­less ex­panse. It’s an In­di­ana Jones-ish trea­sure hunt set in a kind of blocky utopia where ev­ery­one’s pur­pose in life seems to be to cre­ate and ad­mire awe­some builds. The en­tire pop­u­la­tion lives and breathes Minecraft.

As Jesse, prin­ci­pal ar­chi­tect, ad­ven­turer, sav­ior, and leader of Bea­con­town, you’re the ob­ject of the ci­ti­zens’ de­vo­tion/envy. It’s a strange po­si­tion to be in, like you’re some sort of demigod who just hap­pens to live next door to a bunch of or­di­nary folk. Some char­ac­ters be­lieve in hid­den deities who di­rect their ac­tions, while cameo ap­pear­ances from the chunky avatars of ac­tual prom­i­nent YouTu­bers only serve to ham­mer at the fourth wall and amp up the sur­re­al­ity.

Choices made in Sea­sonOne will carry through to the new game, while new­com­ers can choose which key de­ci­sions they would have made had they ex­pe­ri­enced the bat­tle against the Wither Storm and ev­ery­thing else that tran­spired dur­ing the pre­vi­ous episodes. You can also opt to start with­out any knowl­edge of Jesse’s past. Ei­ther way, the game opens with a brief sum­mary of the orig­i­nal party’s story, as tran­scribed by ri­val turned team­mate Lukas. The party then splits up, and you’re left with Jesse, and his (or her, your choice) best buddy Pe­tra.

Manic mining

Pe­tra takes Jesse on an ad­ven­ture in the mines be­low Bea­con­town, where they fol­low a trea­sure-seek­ing llama (don’t ask) that leads them to a secret cav­ern with a sin­is­ter glow­ing gaunt­let. Be­ing the boss, Jesse de­cides to try on the gaunt­let, finds he’s un­able to re­move it, and a cav­ernous ‘Heck­mouth’ opens up, spew­ing out crea­tures. Thus be­gins a new quest that in­tro­duces a cou­ple of ad­di­tional party mem­bers, a boast­ful ri­val from nearby Cham­pion City, and a su­per pow­er­ful foe known only as The Ad­min.

As far as game­play en­hance­ments go, cer­tain com­bat scenes give you di­rect con­trol of your char­ac­ter, al­low­ing you to move, dodge, and at­tack in re­al­time. It’s an ac­tion-

fo­cused ad­di­tion to the usual but­ton­prompt quick­time events (which are still present in abun­dance), al­though a long way short of the qual­ity you’d ex­pect from a ‘real’ 3D ac­tion game. Move­ment is slug­gish, and death forces you to restart at the lengthy pre-fight cutscene. It wasn’t much fun hav­ing to sit through one of th­ese two or three ex­tra times be­cause the game failed to ex­plain how to avoid an en­emy’s 360° stomp at­tack. For the record, the so­lu­tion was to keep the en­emy in the cen­ter of the play­ing area and walk very slowly back­wards un­til reach­ing the fur­thest al­low­able dis­tance. I’d been fail­ing be­cause there was an in­vis­i­ble wall be­hind my char­ac­ter, pre­vent­ing me from re­treat­ing far enough.

Craft­ing ta­bles make a reap­pear­ance, in one in­stance ask­ing you to cre­ate spe­cific types of blocks to solve a puz­zle. This was ac­tu­ally quite promis­ing: Ex­am­in­ing the area, look­ing through the in­ven­tory, and fig­ur­ing out what the craft­ing recipes re­quired. How­ever, when I in­ad­ver­tently cre­ated a sim­i­larly named but in­cor­rect item, Pe­tra de­cided not to let me have an­other go, and in­stead placed the re­quired ingredients on the ta­ble and told me ex­actly what to do. I know it’s aimed at a young au­di­ence, but it could at least have asked if I wanted any help.

Talk­ing heads

The amount of mileage you get out of the story and the op­tional chats with the many in­ci­den­tal char­ac­ters you’ll find in Bea­con­town de­pends largely on how much en­thu­si­asm you have for their one-track Minecraft

fo­cused lives. They can talk at great length about what kind of block a wall is made of, which is def­i­nitely an im­por­tant thing in the proper

Minecraft game, but it doesn’t al­ways make for en­thralling di­a­logue.

The pace is slow through­out, and in stretch­ing the first episode past the two-hour mark the script con­tains an aw­ful lot of filler. There were at least a cou­ple of times when I zoned out while the char­ac­ters waf­fled on and on about noth­ing of con­se­quence, and I ended up com­pletely miss­ing a timed di­a­logue choice, some­thing that has never hap­pened to me in a Tell­tale game be­fore. There was a lit­tle mes­sage at the top of the screen say­ing so-and-so has noted your si­lence, or words to that ef­fect. It’s not the hall­mark of a grip­ping plot, that’s for sure.

Still, given that there are four more episodes to come, and know­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence that Tell­tale games tend to evolve some­what over the course of a sea­son, there’s po­ten­tial for this one to over­come its shaky start. The foun­da­tions have been set in stone, but here’s hop­ing they take their time in re­fin­ing the rest of the build.

far left The Ad­min awakes! It would have been cool if he was a gi­ant hu­man hand or some­thing.

left This is Radar, Jesse’s num­ber one fan and a bit of an odd­ball.

ri ght En­ter­ing a spooky tem­ple in search of the le­gendary Struc­ture Block.

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