It was only in the third episode of Minecraft Story Mode that I actually started to care about the blocky characters I’d been barely controlling since I started playing this latest in Telltale’s increasing library of adventure games that are all largely the same. The Last Place You Look introduced something that resembled character development, and started to explore the bubbling frustrations that the group holds below the surface.

Minecraft: Story Mode\

There’s a bit more of that here, along with Telltale going for their signature one-two emotional punch that could leave particularly sensitive players, and the game’s intended younger audience distraught, on the brink of tears. The problem is that it feels both cheap and obvious – something that carries through in much of the rest of the episode.

Minecraft: Story Mode

When we last encountered Jesse and friends, they were well on their way to becoming the new order of the stone; a new set of heroes. Faced with a gargantuan Wither storm that just doesn’t seem to want to die, our friends and heroes start this episode escaping the aftermath of their unsuccessful attempt to destroy the black and purple beast that’s swallowing up the world and its denizens.

As has happened with just about every episode thus far, the adventure takes us to another wonderfully referenced are that ties in to Minecraft’s lore. This time, it sees our new heroes make their way to The Far Lands, which as Minecraft aficionados will tell you is where the limits of the game proper’s procedurally generated worlds.

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It’s here that we learn about the true nature of the Order of the Stone. We learn why it is that some characters – like the much maligned Ivor who caused all of this mess I the first place – have been motivated in their actions and why the rest of the order are so damned insufferable. It’d be a great plot twist if it wasn’t so blindingly obvious thanks to the signposting that’s portended it all.

A bigger issue I’ve had is that it still doesn’t feel like my actions make all that much of a difference. Sure, some of my choices have led me to have different shiny, enchanted weapons, or given me slightly differing ways of finding my inside the pervasive wither storm – and maybe a choice or two about who I spend my adventuring time. Beyond that though, it really feels like all choices lead to the same outcome.

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As far as gameplay goes, it’s more of the same, which is to be expected. A handful of QTE’s, a sprinkling of fisticuffs, some simple crafting and the usual barrage of timed dialogue choices. There’s also a bit of light puzzling that’s not too difficult if you pay attention to the dialogue, though it may flummox younger players. There is, however, a frustrating maze section that I feel has to be called out for its silliness; thanks to poor lighting and the perspective shown, it’s far harder to navigate than it really ought to be.

There’s something odd about this latest episode in Minecraft Story mode. The change in tone set by the last episode continues, and for a while is darker and sombre than a children’s game should be. And, by the end of it, it feels like the story’s come to a close, though there’s still another episode left. There’s very little that needs wrapping up, so I’m left suspecting that whatever happens in the last episode is little more than set-up for a second season. It’s either that or it’ll be odd padding for the sake of it, which would be a bit of misstep for Telltale.

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Last Updated: January 6, 2016

Minecraft Story Mode: Episode 4 - A Block and A Hard Place
Summary
A Block and a Hard Place isn’t a terrible episode – it’s certainly better than the fumbling second one – but it caps the adventure with a mild fizzle as opposed to the great big bang I’d been expecting. One of the biggest problems with it though, is that I don't really care what happens in the concluding episode
7.0
Minecraft Story Mode: Episode 4 - A Block and A Hard Place was reviewed on Xbox One
71 / 100

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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