Minecraft: Story Mode may not have started out as one of Telltale Games' most memorable adaptations, but did it work its way up there. Bumps in the initial first season made it almost a throwaway title, before an additional three episodes helped iron out its flaws. Season Two, on the other hand, has showcased some of the finest storytelling I've seen all year from Telltale Games, even outshining the likes of their Walking Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy adaptations. Sure, it had its flaws, but it delivered more this time rather than disappoint.
Which leads me to the game's Season Finale, aptly titled "Above and Beyond," which is exactly how I would describe Season Two's execution. The tale of Jesse's battle with the Admin reached its conclusion, with a fight with fists, swords, and words coming from both sides. After returning to Beacontown and seeing what the Admin -- disguised as Jesse -- has done to the place, Jesse gathers all their friends and figures out a plan to initiate the passcode and rid the terror of his powers. Still one thing remains: can Jesse win back the trust that Admin ruined for those close to him?
Minecraft: Story Mode isn't all that interested in being a tale about good versus evil, but rather one about finding the light lost in one's darkness. The character of the Admin/Romeo isn't just one that was born of evil, but one that was molded from the realm of isolation and untrustworthy. While the Admin does bad things, it's because of his need to find a friend to help in overall that keeps him being sympathetic. Even if you can choose for Jesse to either push him away or offer that hand he's greatly needed, it still presents the character as someone who soon regrets the darker path he has taken.
Perhaps it's why I find myself leaning towards Minecraft: Story Mode when it comes to its storytelling rather than The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. Where those two feed on the despair of its characters and players, the adventures of Jesse and The Order of the Stone is about feeding into one's hope and gently placing it into the palm of their hands. These are fun characters to be around, and even when things get tough, a cunning plan comes floating by to set them towards a greater solution. Maybe it's because it's geared towards a younger audience, but there's a warmness this series has that most Telltale titles tend to lack.
It's also quite surprising to see this series being the most interactive. The amount of times I've faced off against Creepers, Endermen, and other baddies certainly rivals all the times I've had to shoot a zombie, save Catwoman, or let Rocket Raccoon go gun-crazy. With that being said, I was not pleased with responsiveness of the controls in this season finale, as I often found myself getting Jesse hurt or -- worse -- killed because the buttons weren't responding. I honestly saw more Game Over screens in this episode than the previous four chapters combined.
Thankfully these controls were overlooked by the excellent acting. There's a goodness that you can't find anywhere else that Patton Oswalt delivers as Jesse, acting more like the Everyman just doing the right thing instead of becoming the arrogant hero. Ashley Johnson is simply a joy as the tomboyish Petra, acting more sympathetic this season and finding her true self as it progressed. It was also nice to see the returns of the likes of Brian Posehn and Paul Reubens as Axel and Ivor respectively, although I do hope to hear them more in a future season than be placed as somewhat background characters throughout this one.
In the end, Season Two of Minecraft: Story Mode wound up being a far superior follow-up to its previous one. There is no need for additional episodes to salvage this one, as the story being told felt more complete and ironed out better than its predecessor. While it may have its rough spots, what it does offer will entice players of all ages and the like to check out this often fun and interactive adventure.
- Surprisingly deep storytelling
- Stellar voice acting
- A reunion of the Order of the Stone
- Controls sometimes unresponsive
"Above and Beyond" proves itself to be a great season finale to Minecraft: Story Mode, despite its unresponsive control scheme. Wherever the road takes Jesse and Petra, we may not know for sure. One thing's for certain: despite not being a big Minecraft fan, I eagerly await to see what's planned for the future of this crafty world.
FINAL GRADE (Episode Five):
FINAL GRADE (Season Two):
Promotional consideration provided by Telltale Games. Reviewed on the Xbox One.
Background Noise: Songs of Experience by U2 - Minecraft: Story Mode is all about building on the strength of hope, which is what has become the motif of U2 all these years. After literally shoving their lackluster Songs of Innocence down every iPhone user's throat, the rockin' Dubliners return to bring together their best record since 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Stripping down with the catchy "The Showman (Little More Better)", smashing their drums in a White Stripes-style in "American Soul", and opening their hearts in "13 (There Is a Light)", Bono, The Edge, Adam, and Larry craft an album that's more raised up than their watered-down predecessor.