Minecraft Story Mode: Episode 4: A Block and a Hard Place (PS3, PS4, 360, Xbox One, PC, iOS, Android)

MINECRAFT_BOXMinecraft is an incredibly popular open-world building adventure game with stylishly blocky graphics. It’s become a bit of a phenomenon since its release a few years back, especially with kids.  And now, point and click experts TellTale Games has crafted an adventure based on the Minecraft universe called Minecraft: Story Mode.  It is split up into five episodes, like most other TellTale titles, and this is a review of the fourth episode.  It’s available for nearly all current home consoles, PCs, and tablets, but reviewed on PS3 here.

Continuing where the last episode left off, you and your group of builder friends are trying to defeat a giant Witherstorm who is ravaging the lands. You’ll travel to the ends of the earth to craft a weapon that can defeat it, based on the past efforts of the legendary heroes of the Order of the Stone.  But will your plans work? That’s what you’ll be finding out in Episode 4.

Like most TellTale games, Minecraft Story Mode is told in episodes, each one releasing a month or two after the last. You can download them separately, or buy a season pass so you can have them when they are ready.  You can also buy a disc that acts like a season pass, too.  However, the game plays more like a kid-friendly Walking Dead title (another popular TellTale entry) rather than a true point and click adventure.  Most of what you do is listen to people talk to each other, and every once in a while you can choose what you want to say.  But be quick because you are timed, otherwise you’ll just go with the ‘silent’ option.  Choose your words wisely, though, because people will remember how you react to them later on.  This encourages a little bit of replayability as you can try different dialog options in another playthrough.

Every so often, you’ll get a chance to move around on your own. You’ll control main character Jesse directly with the left pad, and can move around a cursor with the right stick.  You can highlight items to look at, pick up, or talk to certain people.  These parts of the game are most like a point and click adventure, too bad they don’t last very long.  Finally, sometimes you’ll have to do quick time events, where you must press buttons prompted on screen quickly to dodge obstacles in action sequences.

The main problem with the game is the same as always, in that it’s just leading you around by the nose, and there is hardly any actual gameplay involved. I know that the Walking Dead style of games proved popular for TellTale, and that’s why they probably went that route with this one.  But I miss the ‘old’ TellTale games like Sam & Max, Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures, and Tales of Monkey Island, which all felt more like ‘true’ point and click adventures.

At the end of each episode, you can see how many other people who played it made the same choices you did, which is kind of neat. The voice acting and storytelling are certainly top-notch, and while the game has blocky graphics, they are still charming and expressive.  Another good thing is that you don’t have to play Minecraft to enjoy this game, but I think fans of Minecraft will get the most fun out of it.  One good thing about Episode 4 is that it has a little bit more true puzzle solving to it, and is a little longer than the previous episodes.  But it also has an annoying maze part as well.  What’s weird is that the story kind of concludes at the end of Episode 4, so there is no telling what Episode 5 will be like.  But you can bet I’ll review it, so stay tuned!


Kid Factor:

Minecraft: Story Mode is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Fantasy Violence and Mild Language. You can attack monsters with swords and other weapons, but they just disappear when defeated.  There are times when you can die, but the screen just fades out and you can start back over shortly before you made your mistake.  Plus the blocky visual keep the violence from looking too graphic anyway.  In the fourth episode, the Endermen and Witherstorm creatures can be a little scary, and the ending has a bit of a sad part to it.  I think young Minecraft fans will still enjoy this one, especially since it is so simple.  After titles like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, it’s nice to see TellTale working with a family-friendly license again.

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