Saturday, April 16, 2016

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 4 Review

Telltale has been using Minecraft: Story Mode to try out new ideas, and the pacing of the series is no exception.  There is still one more episode to go in the season pass, but with this episode the Wither Storm story line is wrapped up in a satisfying, yet emotional conclusion.

As the episode begins, Jesse's gang and the Order of the Stone are both dealing with the effects of the events of the last episode.  Everyone has to team up with an unlikely ally, and in the process Jesse learns more about the Order than anyone had before, outside of the Order themselves.    The previous episode broke out of the mold of the traditional losers turned heroes story line, but this episode completely turns expectations on its head.  The story of this series has never been presented better than it is here.

Thankfully, the game play also manages to live up to the standards of the story.  There are some interesting puzzles, and the action sequences are quite memorable.  There are also some choices and consequences here that make a noticeable difference in the final moments of the game. There are quick time events, of course, bur as with the rest of the episodes in this season, they are balanced by the excellent hit counter based directly controlled combat system.  The only drawback in the game play is a maze half-way through the episode, which is not puzzle based, but trial and error based.  It's a small maze, and it doesn't last long, but it's a shame that they didn't use a puzzle to solve the maze, as they showed they can do it well in Tales of Monkey Island.  As it stands, the maze just feels like a way to artificially extend the play time.

The presentation is once again excellent as well.  The new locations are quite interesting, and as usual the blocky graphic style fits the retro 1980s feel that was the inspiration for the story.  The music once again also manages to capture that feeling fantastically.  The voice actors are also on the top of their game in this episode.  As this is the conclusion to the storyline, we get to see more of characters that haven't appeared much in the season.  These characters stand right up against the main cast, which is a testament to the skill of the voice actors.  Some of them even get their personalities and backstories more fleshed out in this story, which also helps the game not feel as one-dimensional as it did in early episodes.  This may be a family friendly story, but as Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures showed previously, Telltale can still deliver a fantastic story and interesting characters in a family friendly environment.

The fourth episode of Minecraft: Story Mode is a surprise early ending to the Wither Storm story line, but it is handled quite well.  The story is the best in the season, delivering plenty of surprises, and fleshing out characters, giving the whole game more depth than was evident early in the season. There are also some choices and consequences that have a noticeable effect in the story. The music, puzzles, and art style all continue to shine, and the voice actors give some of their best performances to date.  The only drawback is a maze that feels like it is there just to artificially extend the play time. Thankfully though, the maze is a short one, so it doesn't detract from the rest of the game, which is fantastic.  Telltale has used Minecraft: Story Mode as a testing ground for new ideas, and they have succeeded.  It's certainly their most diverse game in the modern era, and possibly the most diverse game they've ever made.  It's well worth experiencing the story of Jesse's group and the Order of the Stone.

Final Verdict:

4 out of 5

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