Minecraft: Story Mode has always been something of a strange animal to me. The idea of taking an open world environment and putting a distinct narrative on it proved challenging for the team at Telltale Games early on, but as the series continued over subsequent episodes, it grew stronger. Characters became better rounded out and the narrative proved more interesting by the end. Episode 6 picks up with our friends from the earlier chapters, but feels tacked on despite some solid pacing and fun story idea.
There is a strange Scooby-doo type of mystery to this story that actually worked way better for me than Episode 1's introduction. Maybe because some of the groundwork put into place with the prior episodes that helped to frame their world as a far darker one than it began. Despite the foundation that helps to get us up and running with the best introduction in the Story Mode series of any of the prior episodes, that momentum is soon squandered with a weird shout-out to YouTube personalities.
Yup, you read that right. This is a self-contained episode in the series, which is just fine, but unless you are familiar with YouTube streamers like Stampy Cat and LDShadowLady, the novelty approach will probably be lost on you. Sadly it is on me. I may not be representative of the target audience here, because my youngest daughter spends a great deal of time with Minecraft, adored pretty much episode of Story Mode and frequently watches Let's Play videos on YouTube. She was immediately familiar with some of the personalities leveraged for this episode. Me? Far less so. These real-life YouTube personalities leverage their voices and likenesses to the episode, which is framed around a murder mystery when the gang ducks into a creepy old mansion.
Familiar with putting themselves in front of a camera and microphone, our guest contributors to the episode do a credible job and never create any cringe-worthy embarrassments. That being said, they are a far cry below the usual voice talents found in other Telltale games and it shows. There is an almost tangible line between the returning voice actors and these YouTube sensations who seem comfortable relaying their lines but are at times less convincing when trying to convey genuine emotions. The idea is interesting, and given the streaming culture associated with both Minecraft and the Story Mode games, it is a creative choice I can get behind because it is certainly something we have never seen before, but the results are decidedly mixed in the end.
Everything else is pretty much by-the-numbers here. This is an adventure game with some walking, lots of scenes on rails, interactions with the environments and decisions to be made along the way. The decisions made however, do not feel terribly important by the time the credits roll. I suspect that this is in part because we are confining the choices made to this singular episode. They feel more important in larger games that span five or six episodes because those choices carry on with you for a longer period of time. Here they are rinsed out by the end of the episode. This is low stakes affair, which is not necessarily a bad thing but quite a departure from the earlier episodes of the game that had a much more serious tone with the introduction of the Wither.
One major thing that this episode has going for it is a great sense of pace. It rings in at just under two hours, so it is a decent sized chapter from a Telltale Games perspective, but it never feels unnecessarily padded. Moments of importance slide along smoothly from one to the next and the end confrontation is one of the better ones from the Story Mode series. The overall 'whodunit' vibe was actually pretty cool, making the episode a mystery that had me making multiple guesses until right up near the conclusion.
In the end Minecraft: Story Mode - Episode 6: A Portal to Mystery is an adequate adventure that feels tacked on to the primary storyline. Some of its creative choices work better than others, and while I have mixed feelings on the guests in the episode as they did not interest me much personally, I can appreciate Telltale's willingness to take some chances and try something a little quirky and different.
Article by Nick