Minecraft: Story Mode – Review

A family friendly pick up and play gem

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Minecraft: Story Mode
Publisher Developer Platform Release Date
Telltale Games Telltale Games Everything 10/13/2015

 

Every night before it’s her bed time, my daughter and I read a book of her choosing. It helps wind down whatever day we’ve both had, and she loves being introduced to new worlds and themes. Unfortunately we’ve pretty much run out of new books to borrow on our Kindle Unlimited subscription (thanks summer time) and she’s grown bored of repeats. Enter, Minecraft: Story Mode.

Minecraft: Story Mode
The facial expressions have more fidelity than regular Minecraft

Since she’s only 5, we haven’t played too many games together yet aside from some casual mobile apps here and there. I knew finding a game that was accessible to a young child’s motor skills, captivating enough to keep her short attention span, and interesting enough to make me even want to try it out wasn’t going to be easy. As luck would have it, Humble Bundle was selling a Telltale Games bundle which included Minecraft: Story Mode for super cheap. Let’s play!

Plot

I had played regular Minecraft before which doesn’t really have a plot to speak of, so I was interested to see what TTG had whipped up in terms of story. You play the game from the perspective of Jessie (you can choose male or female). Early on, you and your friends are focused only on being the champion builders (this is their year!) at the local festival, Endercon. Unfortunately life has different plans for Jessie, and a series of events develops into chaos as you run for your life from the Wither, a gigantic, unstoppable killing machine (this is not their year).

You’re tasked with finding the only group of warriors that can defeat such a beast, The Order of the Stone. This is where the gameplay takes off and the real story begins.

Sword Combat
This is the view for sword combat. Get within distance and click.

Gameplay

For ease of sharing the screen and keyboard we played on a laptop (I know), a Macbook Pro to be precise (I know, I know!). Because the game has relatively simple controls, mainly keyboard quick time events (QTE’s) mixed with a bit of mouse movement, we didn’t experience too much difficulty. Some of the QTE’s were too fast for my daughters hand-eye coordination which required a restart on our end, but she never got too frustrated to the point of quitting.

The combat was clunky and very…”Telltale”. Moving the mouse around and left clicking is all there really is to it, but the camera angles can cause many missed shots.

Town Vista
The universe recreation is fantastic

Visuals

This was the most surprising and impressive element of Minecraft: Story Mode. The recreated world looks exactly like the regular game. The character motion is more fluid here but everything else is a perfect match. So if you’re a fan of Minecraft’s aesthetic you’ll love this game. If not, make sure to steer clear.

don’t let that zombie get you!

Since we were playing on an older Macbook Pro (early 2011) I was curious to see how it would perform on a relatively new game. With the texture setting to “High” and resolution at 1024 X 768 it played perfectly. No stutters or noticeable lag at all within our 2 hour playtime. I normally play at 1440P on my main gaming machine, but surprisingly the lower resolution was not distracting to me. The already low-res voxel style of Minecraft was the key here. I can’t see myself playing any newer 3D game at less than 1080P and not be distracted by blotchy visuals (I’m a graphics snob).

Witherstorm
The main foe your team is tasked with destroying

Audio

The voice acting was a solid B-. Because of the different branches of dialogue based on your choices in game, it’s impossible to make certain conversations flow naturally and they stick out for it. The ambient soundtracks and music were great however! My daughter was able to pick up on subtle queues that even I missed while playing and noted on the mood changes. On one cave in particular, there were no obvious scary elements (it wasn’t even that dark), but she mentioned to me, “Dad, the spooky music means something’s gonna happen!” in a hushed whisper. Something happened indeed.

Crap is a bad word dad, he shouldn’t be using it

Minecraft: Story Mode is rated “E” for everyone, but it does include very mild language. The “naughty” words my daughter caught during gameplay were “Damn”, “Hell”, and apparently “crap”. Fortunately they are used sparingly and in heightened moments of action or drama. With the current state of content on TV, movies, and radio, I didn’t feel like it was out of place or inappropriate in a kids game.

I did notice a few audio bugs while playing. Sometimes the dialogue would get a second or two out of sync before fixing itself later. Other times it would skip sections altogether and I would have to read the subtitles to stay on track. After a quick Google search I found I’m not the only one.

Temple
Gorgeous voxel goodness

Conclusion

We’ve only played the through the end of the first chapter, but we’re hooked! Before I started I was sure that I would get bored quickly and my daughter wouldn’t be interested. Thankfully the amazingly talented people at TellTale Games have crafted (heh) a very accessible and entertaining experience. My daughter and I are pumped to continue into Chapter 2 and beyond!

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