Yesterday Minecraft’s “story mode” was released into the iOS app store. I’ve been looking at this with interest for some time, so I decided to pick it up and see how it played.
Story Mode is an episodic adventure game developed by Telltale games, in conjunction with Mojang. As the name suggests, the game is story-driven, and functions more like a choose your own adventure novel 1 than a full-fledged video game. This isn’t a bad thing, but users have to understand what they are getting into before purchasing the game. This is not the free-roaming sandbox of Minecraft, but rather a story set in a Minecraft world.
A key feature in the game is how your character’s choices impact the unfolding of the story. The decisions you make are remembered by the other characters, and choices you make will change the actual storyline. When a key decision has been made, the game will present a notification in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. This is a nice reminder for players that in-game decisions matter, but it’s a little bit too much handholding for someone who was a kid in the days of 8-bit platformers. While I like how the characters remember your choices, I did find it a bit creepy to have your choices compared to other players at the end of the episode. I realize “privacy” is an utter joke, but there are times where I like to pretend I’m not being tracked.
The target audience of the game is more towards children. Unlike more complex adventure games, such as The Adventures of Monkey Island series, the environments are small and the path is linear. I didn’t find too disappointing but, again, it helps to understand for whom this game is geared. Despite the focus for young players, however, there is a scene or two where the characters like to utter “what the hell?” Again, this doesn’t bother me, but it seemed out of place in such a child-centric game. The fact the characters didn’t speak that way throughout the entire story actually made the one particular scene stand out all the more noticeably. It’s not anywhere near a deal-breaker for me, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Minecraft: Story Mode has a fairly simple story. A group of friends stumble on to a plot which threatens the world, and they have to come together to save it. Once the action begins in Episode 1, the story feels more like walking through a disaster movie than an adventure game – though with characters who possess some interesting character traits. The pet pig, in particular, is especially fun. This run through an on-going disaster only serves to increase the sense that the adventure is linear, but it gives the story nice pacing. I was never bored as I played through the game, and I was even OK missing the chance to watch Heroes:Reborn during it’s normal time slot 2.
I felt the writing in the game was OK. Most of the characters are 1 dimensional, but they tend to play to their single dimension consistently. Each character echoes a level of snark and sarcasm that is common to the adventure game genre, and several times I found myself laughing out loud at the jokes being made.
Is it worth the $4.99? It costs on the app store? Probably. Is it enough to get me to purchase the rest of the episodes as they come out? Perhaps. I’d like to see what happens next. Just remember, this is not Minecraft. It’s a living novel, set in a Minecraft world.