Article first published as PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 2: Assembly Required’ on Blogcritics.
To coincide with the release of the disc-based season pass, TellTale has also made Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 2: Assembly Required available for download. With only two weeks between episodes, TellTale Games has clearly adopted a new strategy with this episodic adventure game series. Where recent episodes of other properties have taken upwards of four months between chapters, Mojang’s Minecraft adaptation seems to be on a more accelerated schedule. In my opinion, TellTale is clearly going after younger audience, and is attempting to capitalize on the rapidly approaching Holiday season.
Between offering a physical release, prior to the completion of the Minecraft: Story Mode series, to a quicker release schedule, with relatively short episodes, it’s obvious that TellTale is targeting a younger audience, with a shorter attention span. The physical disc does make the game easier to gift, and kids are much less likely to complain about the economics of paying over five dollars an hour for a video game, because again, they’re probably not paying for it. A solid piece of marketing strategy to be sure, but where does it leave longtime TellTale fans?
Episode 2: Assembly Required can be easily completed in under an hour. This is likely attributed to the two completely different paths the first part of the episode can follow, depending on the choice made at the end of Episode One. Unfortunately, along with missing play time, Episode Two is also missing most of its gameplay. The entire episode is made up of cutscenes, dialogue choices and quick time events, absent most of the exploration and puzzle solving elements, found in the first episode. Combined with a middling plot, the lack of interactivity makes Assembly Required easily the weakest TellTale episode in recent memory.
To be fair, I’m not part of TellTale’s target audience for Minecraft: Story Mode. The millions of kids that love Minecraft won’t mind that story lacks any real human drama, or that so little time is spent getting to know any of the characters that whatever drama there is feels superficial. The voice acting is at least well done, and there is plenty of fan service. The low-res art style also helps reduce the technical issues that usually plague TellTale’s adventures. Overall, it is Minecraft, and fans of the franchise will appreciate that Story Mode is more more of it, even if it is essentially just a slightly interactive story.
While I’m disappointed that Minecraft: Story Mode is essentially just a Holiday cash grab, I understand there is an audience that will find more value in it. As an introduction to point and click adventure games, the game serves a purpose. Unfortunately for TellTale, they’re no longer the only player in the episodic adventure game market. As evidenced by Dontnod’s surprising Life is Strange, Telltale’s position in the market is being challenged. Telltale does deserve credit for being a pioneer, but they’ll need to step up their game to remain competitive. Hopefully, that means good things for those of us that play the games.