Minecraft: Story Mode had a fairly conventional ending to its story arc in the first five episodes, but developer Telltale Games imbued the framework of the game with some fantastic potential. Interesting mechanics came and went, rarely to be seen again. Episode 6: A Portal to Mystery provides the series with an opportunity to take advantage of the (now) already established mechanics and characters, inevitably creating an entirely new plot line to explore. A Portal to Mystery is untethered to events of the past, and the new scenario our heroes find themselves in quickly becomes an intriguing whodunit.
Playing Episode 6 without completing the previous episodes is absolutely doable. The game will generate previous decisions made from past events, but Episode 6’s story definitely allows players unfamiliar with its backstory to enjoy the ride from start to finish. Jesse and friends are far stronger than we’ve seen in the past, an observation easily made from the introductory opening credits of the episode. Quick time events seem a little more complex than in previous entries, sometimes requiring a series of four or five inputs before successfully completing some pretty impressive maneuvers. The credits themselves are integrated heavily into the environment and offer an unexpected, quality tint of cinematic presentation to the blocky, Minecraft-based visuals.
The gang ends up discovering a mysteriously vague invitation from “The Host” to his house on a somewhat nearby hill. After pushing through an endless horde of encroaching zombies, the group finds the house and breaks in through the window. Until this point, things seemed apropos to the previous five episodes. A slew of new characters are introduced to the game upon the group’s entry, and things get hairy pretty quick. Torque Dawg and Captain Sparklez are the first two characters (of seven) that you meet, both shining a light on the game’s meritable voice acting without relying completely on the performance from Patton Oswalt as Jesse. Each character has a simple yet endearing quality of archetypal characterization – a nice change of pace for those who may have become comfortable in knowing what to expect from the game’s previously established social dynamics.
A Portal to Mystery transitions into a murder mystery in the first couple minutes of gameplay. Players will have to discover the character of these new personalities and make their decisions accordingly. The game delivers its story in the same fashion as previous episodes: incredibly meta dialogue, a jovial sense of humor in the darkest of times, and weighty decision-based gameplay all make a triumphant return. Episode 6 unfortunately brings with it the same level of interactivity as the first five episodes, ultimately acting as an interactive animated movie rather than an experience full of gameplay. Despite your decisions affecting the story, the events that transpire between each decision is on a mine cart rail – you’re just along for the ride as you are forced to choose every once in awhile. Seeing the results of your choices unfold is definitely enjoyable (especially when backed with quality voice overs), but it’s possible to feel somewhat uninvolved in the interim.
There are quite a few moments that allow players to walk around and explore as Jesse, and the game allows you to choose the order in which you interact with the environment or people therein. Being stuck in a spooky house doesn’t limit Episode 6 to a stagnant series of static environments – it’s actually conducive to the game’s nature as a graphic adventure. The restrictive invisible walls from past episodes are rarely encountered in Episode 6 because of the layout of the house, and each camera angle appropriately displays every available option for interaction. Outside of this, however, combat and quick time events quickly become a series of easily timed button presses that don’t offer much of a challenge (if any at all).
While this particular episode doesn’t progress the overarching story of our heroes, it offers a wonderful subplot that leads to a series of events fueled by intrigue and deductive reasoning. Episode 6: A Portal to Mystery finishes what it starts as it wraps up its story before the ending credits roll (or so it seems), providing a sense of excitement for what lies ahead in future episodes.
If the following entries introduce more opportunities to interact with the world (including the rarely seen crafting moments), then Minecraft: Story Mode will totally be within reach of its full potential.
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