Please note that since each episode of Minecraft: Story Mode features the same graphics engine and control setup, those elements will not be repeated in our reviews for the final four episodes. To read our thoughts on that, refer to our review of Order of the Stone.
Just when I was ready to write Story Mode off as TellTale’s first failed crossover experiment, The Last Place You Look upped the ante by offering more to do and more to invest in emotionally. It also marked an abrupt turn into more adult topics, which proves to be a direction the series continues to go down with A Block and a Hard Place.
Technically, this is the fourth in a five-episode saga, but as the promotional material informed you, it marks the finale of the Wither Storm plotline, leaving a “mysterious” fifth episode in position to be something of an epilogue.
However TellTale chooses to divvy up the content on its ultra-aggressive release schedule (four episodes in three months?) the quality has been uneven, and that’s once again true here with inconsistency infiltrating the storytelling and a particularly dull “action” sequence grinding all momentum to a halt early on.
After escaping the newly reformed Wither Storm(s), Jesse and company split up with the majority of the group travelling to Ivor‘s lab to obtain a book that holds the key to stopping the command block — the object that is powering the Storm itself.
Yes, in a truly baffling and unexplained turn of events, Ivor decides to show up and summarily join your group with nary a hint of disapproval from anyone. Remember, this person is solely responsible for the creation of the storm and has moved to thwart your efforts at every turn. Now, he just appears, has a conversation with Soren and boom, he’s in. It’s the type of lazy storytelling you almost never get from the folks at TellTale.
Upon arriving at Ivor’s lab, you’ll need to make your way through a maze. It’s mind numbing. With no ability to change the camera angle, it’s basically impossible to see if/when pathways end as they move off into the distance. As such, the whole section is you wandering around until you find the one path that’s actually connected to where you’re trying to go. There aren’t even conversations to break up the monotony like there are during the ensuing book search (yes, another one).
Things do manage to pick up after that, with a couple of surprises tossed in as you make you way toward your final showdown with the Wither Storm, but the game makes a major miscalculation near the end and seems to temporarily forget Story Mode has been aimed at younger gamers since the beginning. In The Walking Dead or even Borderlands it would’ve been fine. Here, though, I didn’t care for it.
And even if you didn’t think it was out of place, the handling of it effectively undermines whatever the game hopes you’re feeling. It’s so rare for TellTale to make such a complete tonal misstep that it, like Ivor’s acceptance, really stands out here.
While you’d expect A Block and a Hard Place to leave unanswered questions for the upcoming finale, the ones that truly linger are unrelated to what’s on screen. Questions like: Why was this game so rushed versus other TellTale offerings? Is there a reason for a fifth episode other than justifying the price of a Season Pass? Who decided adding dark themes to a pseudo kids’ game was a good idea? Barring a redemptive fifth episode, Minecraft: Story Mode is TellTale’s worst use of a license since 2011’s Jurassic Park.