Xbox One

  All Features


  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One


Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 1 - Hero in Residence

Score: 60%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Minecraft: Story Mode was one of the weirdest releases of the last couple of years. Not due to its playstyle, as the adventure purveyors at Telltale Games have stuck very closely to their formula for years. And certainly not due to its license; Minecraft is, to put it bluntly, an empire. No, what made that series weird was the way in which its narrative structure informed its release schedule. When it comes to Telltale games, you can usually expect five or six episodes that deal with a very specific arc. And by "usually," I mean all of them except Minecraft: Story Mode, in which we were treated to four of an intended five-episode run that dealt with a main arc, before it took a sudden swerve into a non-serialized flavor-of-the-month format. It was jarring and uneven, but its charm largely sustained it.

Which brings us to Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two, which is about the biggest surprise I've had all year. We've been promised continuations of other Telltale series, both good (Batman, coming later this year) and not-so-good (Game of Thrones, which, like its ink-and-paper grandfather, currently rots in limbo). But honestly, in the grand scheme of things, Minecraft: Story Mode has always settled somewhere in the middle and rarely made any sudden moves towards either pole. That is, until now. Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 1 - Hero in Residence is not very good.

I have nothing to add with regards to Minecraft: Story Mode's visuals, and considering Telltale hasn't done anything to change the art style (as they well should not have), the best I can do is reiterate its effectiveness. Which I can do, and gladly at that. You see, Minecraft has a very specific look. Everything is blocky and made up of simple color schemes, rendering its world with an instantly identifiable aesthetic that will never, ever be mistaken for that of any other property. Minecraft: Story Mode has the technicals squared away; practically no work is required on that front.

Instead, Telltale has to get creative with its world-building, and they've never really faltered on that front. I'm always surprised at the kinds of environments and scenarios they're able to come up with, and Episode 1 - Hero in Residence has some good ones, including a town that celebrates individuality to the point of garish extremes and a temple at the bottom of the sea. However, one aspect of the visuals really distracted me this time around: the lip syncing. I'm not dumb enough to expect Horizon: Zero Dawn-style motion-capture from anything with the Minecraft name stamped on it, but when the characters continue to move their mouths long after they're done speaking, leaving them hilariously agape and askew as if mid-syllable, I feel less like I'm playing a narrative adventure and more like I'm watching a bad Japanese monster movie.

Sound design is largely unchanged between seasons, thus far. Patton Oswalt and Catherine Taber reprise their role(s) as Jesse's male and female variants, respectively, and they clearly haven't forgotten the proper notes. Ashley Johnson returns as Petra, and she's as delightful as ever, despite what the writers are doing with her character. Gone from the action are Martha Plimpton, Brian Posehn (unless he's uncredited), and Paul Reubens, whose character is conveniently removed from the action, Lois-Lane-in-Superman III-style. It's not a deal-breaker. Just a curiosity.

Antimo and Welles return with more generally lovely minimalist compositions for the soundtrack, and a few of last season's tunes make it back in, with new dimensions to them -- I'll let you discover that for yourself, should you decide to gamble on this season panning out satisfactorily.


Jesse is basically retired as an adventurer, despite a notable lack of rounded edges and other not-so-obvious signs of physical aging that may or may not be applicable to the denizens of the Minecraft world. He's long since vanquished the Wither Storm and escaped the labyrinthine multiverse of the Portal Network. So what do you do when you're a hero who's done it all? Go into politics, of course. Presumably with the help of the Order of the Stone, Jesse has established Beacontown, a fresh new city populated with faces both old (YouTubers Stacy Plays and Stampy Cat from Episode 6 - A Portal to Mystery) and new, including Jesse's sycophantic intern Radar and an adventurer who looks suspiciously like Snake Plissken from Escape from New York.

It's Founding Day, which is... not really explained all that well but celebrated globally. But adventure calls under suspicious circumstances when Petra enlists Jesse's help in scouring the mines for something that she's not exactly forthcoming about. Provided this is exactly the same kind of situation that resulted in the appearance of the Wither Storm, it's abundantly obvious that something's going to go down. The problem with Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 1 - Hero in Residence, the first half (and then some) amounts to a meandering waste of time, while the final third or so introduces a conflict that is neither interesting as a standalone story nor promising with regards to the next four episodes.

Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two plays identically to its predecessor. It's minimally interactive and functions more as a guided vehicle for storytelling. You choose from dialogue responses when prompted and engage in some action sequences when the plot calls for it. Choosing what to say is the most gratifying gameplay element in these kinds of releases, and the action switches off between deeply unsatisfying on-rails combat and quick-time events. If you've played a Telltale game before, you know what to expect.


It's possible to reach a fail state in Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 1 - Hero in Residence, though I have a hard time understanding why. Action elements in these games are essentially pointless; they're so uninvolving that I honestly wish the developers would simply remove the interactivity altogether. I would rather simply watch the action unfold cinematically than focus on shoehorned-in elements as brainless and mundane as what's on offer.

If you die at all, it won't be often, and you won't be kicked back too far if you do. Still, it's bothersome and redundant to replay sections of hands-free narrative only to reach the button prompt you previously failed.

Game Mechanics:

Being a Telltale release, Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 1 - Hero in Residence shouldn't be approached with a gamer's mindset; it doesn't feel like a game and it doesn't play like one either. If you look at it as a cinematic Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, you'll have the right expectations. However, given the weak storytelling in this opening episode, you would be better served by almost anything else from Telltale's modern library.

Dialogue choices are mapped to face buttons, with the top one always being reserved for silence, which is always a viable option. There's no scheme to how these responses are structured. You pick one before the time runs out and go with it, lest the game automatically decide on silence for you. It moves inexorably forward almost all the time.

You're occasionally let off the leash for some light exploration and puzzle-solving, but neither is particularly effective as adventure or puzzle game standards go. It's always extremely clear what can and cannot be interacted with, as is how interactive elements can be manipulated. A handful of sequences attempt to invoke the inherently creative elements of Minecraft, but they just don't work with this kind of experience and come across as forced.

"::character:: will remember that," is a phrase that still shows up frequently, but this release introduces a few different indicators that attempt to illustrate different magnitudes of diversion. Of course, the binary, all-or-nothing nature of the dilemmas faced in these games renders every major choice an obvious, unmistakable fork in the road, which makes these new additions feel superfluous and weirdly self-congratulatory.

I'm sad that when it comes to the most important parts, I don't have many nice things to say about Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 1 - Hero in Residence. It is easily the weakest episode of the entire series thus far and an impossible sell unless the next four episodes somehow manage to legitimize what has been, so far, an incredibly dull couple of hours. I've seen Telltale turn it around before, so I wouldn't lose hope for this season just yet. But it definitely has an uphill battle on its hands.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:

Sony PlayStation Vita Accel World vs Sword Art Online: Millennium Twilight Windows Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 1 - Hero in Residence

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated