When Mojang and Telltale announced their partnership for the first season of Minecraft: Story Mode, players were confused. How could a game like Minecraft, which is all about creating your own world and modifying such an enormous sandbox, support the narrative-focused structure we've found in previous Telltale games? But then it released, and while it wasn't ground-breaking by any means, what we got was a fun story aimed at the younger generation, with the Minecraft mechanics we're all familiar with integrated smoothly alongside a lovable cast of characters. The events of the first season ended (spoiler alert) with Jesse and his crew saving the world from the Wither Storm, before heading to Sky City, fending off mobs, traversing through a series of portals, playing a game of spleef, then eventually saving everybody again and returning to their home land.
Season Two kicks off with Lukas writing a novel about the gang's adventures, while Jesse is heralded as a hero by all the residents of Beacontown. We're introduced to a new, overly excitable core character, Radar, who is Jesse's intern/assistant, and who accompanies our protagonist around Beacontown while the rest of the crew go off and do their own preparations for a celebration called Founding Day. This is the only aspect of the whole episode that is truly light-hearted; exploring the town opens up possibilities such as building a statue for Nell of whatever you'd like using the core Minecraft building mechanics, and choosing the best pig to play the late Reuben in the celebrations.
One issue becomes apparent very quickly though, and that's just how slow Jesse walks. Even with the 'fast walk' option, it's still a major slog to get through town, especially if you need to turn around to interact with something you've missed. There was also one occasion where it was possible to look at the book store in town, but due to the fixed camera angle, it was almost impossible to click on, as it kept jolting back and forth. It's nothing mandatory, but if you want to explore everything and exhaust all dialogue, it's a pain.
The town itself looks impressive, utilising a plethora of different types of blocks and build types, while the characters and residents of the town are all full of life and well voice acted. Except for one: the inclusion of Joseph Garrett, or Stampy Cat/stampylongnose as he's better known to his fans on YouTube, is a poor one. His voice acting is sub-par and sounds incredibly out of place, and his addition was clearly just used as fan service to appeal more to the kids who will rejoice at the fact their favourite YouTube personality is in the game. For those who aren't fans of his, the character comes across as jarring.
Without spoiling too much of the overall plot, episode one plays out very similar to the main story arc from the first season: Jesse and Petra join forces to explore a mine shaft before coming across something far more sinister, enlisting the help of another prestigious adventurer, then traversing the continent and discovering another threat. It's very cliché, but at no point does it get particularly stale. There's a variety of environments including Beacontown and its neighbouring district, Champion City, a deep mine shaft featuring an elusive creature, and an enormous sea temple, for example.
Gameplay, as per usual with Telltale games, consists of simple puzzles and dialogue choices. There really isn't anything innovative to be found, but the world they've built is charming and perfect for kids and young teenagers. It ticks all the boxes that a Telltale game should, but whereas titles like The Walking Dead and Tales From The Borderlands were engaging for those who weren't previously familiar with the universe, that's not the case here. If you didn't enjoy the first season, won't be playing through with your kids, or aren't a Minecraft fan in general, it's safe to say the first episode of the new season won't appeal.
One little gripe that needs to be mentioned is when Jesse is breaking or placing dirt blocks. In the core Minecraft game, the sound is like a soft squishy sound, akin to actual dirt. In Story Mode, the dirt sounds like placing and breaking stone, with a much harsher thwack. It's a very pernickety complaint we realise, as is the fact that Jesse and Petra were unable to break a mound of gravel to escape a situation despite gravel being incredibly quick to break, but it has to be mentioned.
Episode one lasts for about two hours, and while it made us let out a half-hearted laugh once or twice, it's not particularly engaging. It's fun, but the story is definitely aimed at Minecraft's younger audience instead of trying to draw in the older crowd. Not Telltale's best work, but far from their worst too. If you're looking for something a little more mature, may we recommend Tales from the Borderlands?