JOYSTiCK Ep. 4: Minecraft Story Mode – A fate much, MUCH worse than death

By: Daniel Kendle

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Uh oh.

Greetings, and welcome back again to JOYSTiCK, the HPSH serial that enjoys reviewing and exploring video games. Today we’re taking a shot at our 4th game on the docket, eternal pain and suffering ‘Minecraft Story Mode,’ which I’m not even going to try to hide my disgust of.

…..

So, I really, REALLY like ‘Minecraft.’ Like, to an abnormal amount. And it being the prince of gaming giants in the industry, of course it would eventually get a spin-off.

As of writing this, there have been 4 ‘Minecraft’ games made besides the original. ‘Minecraft Dungeons’ is an isometric dungeon crawler based on ‘Diablo,’ ‘Minecraft EARTH’ was – I say “was,” as it’s been permanently shut down due to COVID-19 – an AR game similar to that of ‘Pokémon Go’ and ‘Pikmin Bloom,’ where you built stuff in the real world using resources obtained from resource deposits (similar to that of the base game), and then… There was ‘Minecraft Story Mode,’ which similar to the rest of Telltale’s games – the company that teamed up with Mojang, the creators of Minecraft – followed a “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” format. There were actually 2 games, being season 1 and season 2. Each had the same characters, but different stories. For this review we’ll be looking at season 1 only.

So, to preface this review, this’ll be mostly about the story of ‘Minecraft Story Mode,’ as the game doesn’t have much to offer, gameplay-wise. It’s mostly focused on telling a narrative rather than actually having you move around and do stuff on your own merit, like most games. So, for this review, I’ll be discussing the story first, then eventually the music. If you’re looking for a review of a game with the player actually “playing” instead of just clicking through multiple-choice questions, then this isn’t the review for you.

So, ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ is a bad game, it’s not like I’ve tried to hide it in the title and introduction alone. But, why is it like this? Well, the answer is pretty interesting, actually.

PART ONE: STORY *Warning, Spoilers*

Settle down everyone, this might take a while.

For context, I don’t actually own a physical copy of ‘Minecraft Story Mode.’ However, the first game has actually been archived on Netflix, of all places, categorized in their “Netflix Interactive” group, a group made up of playable movies. This is because Telltale eventually shut down, and these 2 games were removed from production lines forever. Thank goodness Netflix was able to swoop in and save this insanely-bad experience.

But now, the game’s story. Keep in mind, ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ comes in an episodic format, having 4 episodes for the main game and 4 additional episodes after completing the first half. I’ll be covering the first half for this review.

We open on a bit of background The Order of the Stone, a group of legendary heroes that once defeated the Ender Dragon, a powerful creature that lived in a place known as The End. Afterwards, they disappeared into legends, where they have since split apart and gone their separate ways.

After this we open on our playable character, Jessie, as him (or her, you can choose their gender) and his friends prepare to head off to take part in a building competition in order to win tickets to Endercon, a festival that they’ve always wanted to take part of.

After a rival group causes a commotion at their 1st-place winning build, Jessie’s pet pig runs off into the forest. After saving him they’re ambushed by monsters – or “mobs,” as they’re normally called – being saved by another friend, Petra. The three go off to Endercon and meet up with Jesse’s friends in order to exchange a Wither Skeleton skull for some cash.

The stranger that they’re to trade the skull with ends up cheating them, taking the skull and leaving some dirty lapis in return. Jessie, Petra, the pig and the friends all chase after him. They reach the main convention hall and head down to a basement library, where they find the stranger’s been working on some sort of demonic summoning practice, constructing a statue in order to resurrect the Wither Storm, a monster capable of destroying entire cities with ease.

The group runs to warn the public, stumbling into a Q&A with Gabriel, one of the members of The Order of the Stone. They try to tell him of the plans, but Jessie is interrupted by the stranger, now known to be Ivor, another past member of the order. He uses the Wither Skull with 2 others and a machine known as a Command Block to summon the Wither Storm, though it’s revealed to only be a ploy to scare the crowd, as Ivor has the potion to subdue the beast. The problem is that one of Jesse’s friends, Axel, took the potion for himself, replacing it with one that turns out to be useless on the creature. It quickly starts destroying the town, and Jessie, his friends, his pig, and one of the members of the rival gang have to enter a portal to escape.

Now in a place known as the Nether, they travel across a minecart highway in order to travel away from the destruction back home, and reach another portal to get back to the normal world and end up far away from Endercon.

After finding The Order of the Stone’s past bunker, they split up to find 2 more members of the order. This is one of the game’s BIG player-made choices, allowing for Jessie to either find one or the other, which takes a large chunk of the next episode to do.

You go to find either Magnus or Ellegard, both being pyrotechnics and “Redstone” engineers, respectively (In the normal ‘Minecraft,’ Redstone is a kind of circuit-like ore. I wont cover it here, but I wanted to give context for the confusion). After some hassle getting them to come back, Jessie, a friend who came with them depending on the order number chosen, and the order member all leave after the Wither Storm reaches them again.

Upon getting back to the bunker, they find out that the friend Jessie didn’t go with got the other member, so now the group technically only have one more member to find: Soren, the group’s expert builder. He’s located in The End, a dimension surrounded by an endless void. After getting him, the gang has to make their way back to their normal world once again.

The main story ends with Jessie and Co. all defeating the Wither Storm through a series of inventions that let Jessie access the monster’s core, slaying it in the process. Unfortunately, his pet pig dies too, which is used as a sad moment in the plot. The past order is shown to be frauds and are either forgiven or not, and the new order becomes the guardians of their town, or something. The. End.

Wow.

So as I’ve said… this is a really, REALLY flat story, tonal-wise. It’s obviously meant for a smaller age demographic, seeing as Minecraft is a kid-friendly experience.

I’d say that my main issues with ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ is that it feels like it wants to more like an adult-focused adventure with mild swears and somewhat-dark themes, like death (in a “bad” way) and basically the genocide of hundreds of citizens, though its writing is so stupid that it feels like satire at times.

Characters in the game are just annoying, there’s not many I find decently likable. Pretty much everyone is either rude to our heroes or ARE the heroes, who are 10 times worse! The Order of the Stone has most of the 5 members be dismissive, weirdly paranoid or just a very mean character in general. When going off to find 2 of the members, Ellegard and Magnus, their characters are seen exclusively as these petulant whiners that only care about themselves and couldn’t give less of a thought towards the people they lead.

Looking at the actual story itself, it’s… fine? Like, I’ve seen worse, though I’d say that ‘Minecraft Story Mode’s’ biggest detriment is that, as I said, it feels like it wants to be both a kid friendly romp through a fictional ‘Minecraft’ world, and also a semi-dark take on the ideals of evil, not trusting those around you, etc.

The main message of the game is to not trust those around you. However, the moral doesn’t come off as many other kid-friendly media do, because whilst something like ‘Arthur’ or ‘Curious George’ can teach viewers that blindly believing in someone or something can be hazardous without proper reasoning, ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ says that trusting ANYONE is dangerous. Though unfolding events the plot has pretty much any character, unimportant or not, be these hostile, arrogant folk. It’s almost disturbing how there’s practically no one in the game that’s a genuinely nice person; it feels depressing. The characters save the world from an extra-dimensional deity, and what changes? Nothing. People still act callus to you and your friends, as if all you’ve done is prolong the drought, metaphorically speaking.

Going back to the characters, I do like a couple. I stated in the story that Lucas, a member of the gang, comes with you, and he’s actually decently-written. His arc is of how he’s arguably the nicest towards Jessie’s group, and breaking away from his toxic peers. Then again, this is an exception, not the rule. Or dare I say, THE exception. Outside of this, there aren’t many other characters that have somewhat-compelling motivations and arcs.

If I could change anything, it’d be ‘Minecraft Story Mode’s’ message. Having this sort of paranoid theme of trust and “stranger danger” is convoluted at best and dumb at worst. Instead, I feel like a message of “trusting others through conflicting ideals and thought complexes” would be a solid choice. Considering the source material is a multiplayer game where you’re able to literally make anything, a theme of adapting to another person’s different morals and beliefs could work well in what is basically a more story-focused version of ‘Minecraft.’

PART TWO: MUSIC
So, you’d expect that for such a bad game, the music would be too, right? Fortunately, no.

When I went into this review, I was only gonna talk about the story, and maybe the creepy animations too. However, I decided to write about the music because – and you might not want to hear this – ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ has amazing tracks.

The albums for both season 1 and 2 were made by Antimo & Welles, otherwise known as Skyler Barto and Andrew Arcadi. Looking at their YouTube channel, the soundtrack for ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ is arguably the most popular of their works.

If asked to describe the feelings the playlist gives me, I’d say “atmospheric.” This isn’t some kind of Lo-Fi soundtrack where it has these relaxing, calming beats. Instead, the game has a somber, almost eerie list of songs, though seeing as this game has an annoyingly creepy undertone throughout its duration, at least it knows it’s weird. Some of my favorite songs include the following.

  • “Ivor’s Theme” is my personal favorite. If anyone had to ask me the perfect mix of a horror theme and Lo-Fi track, this would be one of them.
  • “Wither Storm Theme” has a very fitting sense of dread and anger, seeing as the monster it’s named after destroys part of a city whilst this plays. I like it, as it feels very epic in scale.
  • “The Finishing Blow” is from one of ’Minecraft Story Mode’s’ various DLC episodes. I have not played any of them, so I don’t actually know what this song correlates to. I do know that it’s very good, however.
  • “Mob Grinder” slaps, and there really isn’t anything else to say about it.
  • “Boomtown Suite” feels like it belongs in a completely different game than this, akin to ‘Borderlands’ or ‘Splatoon.’ Nifty!
  • And finally, “Ivor Fight” isn’t as good as its companion, but definitely rivals it.

PART THREE: CONCLUSION

So, that’s that. The skeleton in the closet that’s been bugging me since September has been freed, and ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ has been reviewed.

No, it’s not a good game. No, my opinion hasn’t changed. And no, this review isn’t nearly as much as I could talk about it. Honestly, I could write an essay on this game and its tonal problems, story struggles, and beautiful soundtrack. A part 2 could happen, though I’d have to somehow buy the 2nd season off of Craigslist, seeing as the 2 games are no longer in print.

And finally, I can definitively say that ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ is a 3/10 game. The music entirely keeps this above a 1 or 2, which isn’t a good look. And seeing as I’m one of, like, 10 people who’s given an in-depth look at this game, I feel I need to warn the public of this menace to society. We need to stop this game from infecting the brains of children across the globe! But how? How could we destroy all the copies of ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ in existence? Hmm…

Well, shoot, now this fiendish game shall go on to take over the world with its hazardous mediocrity. And I will NOT let the game do this; it must be stopped.

Hmm. Oh, that’s it!

Everyone who has a copy of ‘Minecraft Story Mode, listen up. Go out and PURCHASE A NUCLEAR MISSILE AND UNLEASH IT UPON THE HORRID CREATURE THAT IS ‘MINECRAFT STORY MO-!’

…..

And that’s all for this episode of JOYSTiCK. It was a little shorter than usual, though this is more akin to a special rather than a full-length story. (That also explains the ‘explosive’ ending). Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

One thought on “JOYSTiCK Ep. 4: Minecraft Story Mode – A fate much, MUCH worse than death”

  1. This thoroughly entertaining article is well-written and well-researched by the author who clearly loves his games! I’d venture that this article is far more amusing and interesting than this lousy sounding game, and as for the music, having heard a fair amount of it, I’d agree that it’s interesting and atmospheric. Great review, Mr. Kendle!

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