Minecraft: Story Mode Review (Switch)

Telltales Games have become famous for their style of game. They’re really interactive novels with a few dialogue choices and small puzzle elements. They’re almost like digital choose your own adventure novels. They’ve released a number of these featuring many well known and respected properties. Each time they take the world of that property and use it to its full advantage. Their latest is Minecraft: Story Mode, and while it’s been out for a while on other platforms, Switch owners are getting to experience it for the first time and they really shouldn’t miss it.

Minecraft Story Mode 1If you’re familiar with Telltale’s style of game you know exactly what to expect. 90% of your time in this game will be choosing responses to various dialogue options presented. The choices you make can affect events that happen later in the story. You’ll know those points because the game will tell you that characters will remember that. They don’t tell you how it will affect the story. Sometimes the option may be good, sometimes it may be bad. You’re given a limited amount of time to make those choices, and silence in many cases is an option. The way they’re presented to you really makes you feel like your decisions have weight to them. One choice may keep a character in your party. Another choice may send them away to something that can cause them harm off screen. You won’t know until you meet that character again later. The point is you have to make a choice and live with the consequences of that choice.

At various points you’ll be given control of the character and you can interact with the game in a way very similar to point and click adventures. Small puzzles will be presented and you have to use objects in the environment immediately around you to solve those puzzles. They’re never really hard to figure out and if you have a knowledge of how Minecraft works you’ll find the puzzles may be simple to the point of tedious. However, they give you a chance to explore some really interesting and varied environments.

Minecraft Story Mode 2The story in Minecraft: Story Mode is really broken up into two separate parts. The first four episodes tell one solid story of a plot to release a Wither during a big building convention and the aftermath of that event. Episodes five through eight tell four separate stories that are linked together by a common thread of the players going out on an adventure and trying to get home. There you learn more about the characters after they’ve become famous around the world. Some long time rivals become jealous, they get sent through a portal and can’t find their way back home. During one episode a number of real world Youtube personalities get tossed into the mix. Aside from a little bit of questionable language the story that is told is really well done and a great time for people of any age. You learn of the cost of your actions. You learn that history may not always be what’s been told. You learn of jealousy, rivalry, and bullying. You learn of friendship, heroism, and selfessness. I was surprised at just how good the story I was being told was.

All of this is built inside the framework of a Minecraft adventure. Don’t go into this thinking there will be a lot of the elements of a traditional Minecraft experience. Far from it. There is crafting, but it’s limited to very small, very specific sections of the story. The recipe you need is given to you and you’ll more or less only ever have the elements needed on hand to complete the one recipe that’s required at the time. Building is done through a quicktime event where the characters build at a highly accelerated rate while you mash a button. It looks like Minecraft. It moves like Minecraft, even if the characters are more animated than they usually are. It even sounds like Minecraft.

Minecraft Story Mode 3Where it differs from a traditional Minecraft experience is the story itself. The entire game is fully voiced by some very highly talented actors. Patton Oswalt leads the crew as Jesse (if you play as a male character). Catherine Taber takes the lead if you play as a female version of Jesse. They are joined by a group that includes Ashley Johnson (The Last of Us), Dee Bradley Baker (every cartoon animal ever), Brian Posehn, and Paul Reubens as the antagonistic Ivor, a character who is appropriately over the top as a villain.

Minecraft is all about making your own fun. Minecraft: Story Mode flips that on its head and tells you a story inside a world millions of people are familiar with and does it so well. It’s not a world changing story. Older players will see many of the twists coming. I was emotional at the end of Episode 4. If you’ve played the game you know what I’m referring to. Telltale have figured out the art of digital choose your own adventure stories. The portable nature of Switch means it’s almost like you have an interactive novel with you wherever you go, then when you get home you can pop the game onto your TV and experience an interactive TV show. If you like Minecraft you really shouldn’t miss out on the adventure.

Four Stars

Review copy of the game provided by Telltale Games
Played through all eight episodes (Some multiple times)

Total Play Time: 18 hours

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