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 (or the three-episode Adventure Pass). To read our thoughts on that, refer to our review of Order of the Stone.
After a fairly uninspired four-episode arc involving the Wither Storm, TellTale effectively reset things in Order Up heading into the new three-episode Adventure Pass. The first of these is entitled A Portal to Mystery, which picks up with Jesse, Petra, Lukas and Ivor arriving in a world that is not their own and immediately encountering a horde of zombies.
Their only refuge comes in the form of an invitation that directs them to a large mansion where they encounter a number of new characters — these are based on (and voiced by) YouTube personalities associated with Minecraft. Not being a fan of “Let’s play…” videos, I confess to being wholly unfamiliar with the lot, but outside of their goofy names it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the episode.
In a significant departure from previous episodes, A Portal to Mystery eschews the “world in peril” setup for a more personal and direct threat. It seems that the mysterious White Pumpkin has lured everyone here because they desire an object one of you possesses, and they’re willing to kill for it.
That means someone in the mansion isn’t who they say they are, and it’s up to you and your friends to weed them out before anyone else turns into a floating collection of inventory items. This changes the focus from the prompt-heavy action of the last episode to more dialogue and interacting with the environment. It’s an interesting departure, but it has a few issues.
For starters, you don’t have enough time with the newcomers to form any kind of bond, so when the game tries to get you to make “tough choices,” they lack the emotional weight that actually made them difficult in previous TellTale games.
Why should I worry about helping someone I just met when the alternative is better for my immediate group of friends? It’s the inarguable downside of resolving adventures as they happen: decision making just has far less meaning.
Another byproduct of introducing so many new characters is that they’re not that easy to keep track of, so when the game starts asking you to accuse someone or produce evidence to convince others that you’ve reached the proper conclusion it can be problematic. Of course, the mystery portion of the game is foolproof, so even if you mess things up it won’t be particularly detrimental.
Extending Minecraft: Story Mode was an interesting move, and I like that they’ve shifted toward largely self-contained stories as it allows considerable freedom. If the whole series played out like A Portal to Mystery, it’d be overkill, but the “murder mystery” setup is a solid change of pace as a one-time thing.