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.
Despite wrapping up Episode 6, A Portal to Mystery, on a positive note, things have been going south ever since for Jesse, Petra, Lukas and Ivor. The foursome has spent their time entering world after world, but thus far they’ve been unable to find the way home. This leads to some early bickering within the group in Access Denied, as well as the fateful decision to follow Petra into a redstone door.
What they find is a world that initially seems to be abandoned, though that’s quickly disproven as they encounter zombies. Only this time, the zombies are more powerful and exhibit strange behavior while wearing some kind of device implanted in their head. After being cornered by a group and then summarily ignored, Jesse and company decide to follow.
It turns out the zombies aren’t the only ones acting funny, as the populous of this world is also under the control of PAMA, a sophisticated A.I. created by Harper, an inventor and the last uncompromised citizen remaining. She needs your help to stop PAMA, and, since Harper destroyed the exit portal, you’ll need her help to leave.
If that plot sounds familiar, it should. The “machine built to assist humanity turns bad” story arc has been done many times before, and Access Denied hits many of the same notes. That doesn’t mean they aren’t well done, however, as this episode does a good job of feeling more serious and tense than any of the previous ones.
That being said, Minecraft still struggles with the unshakable feeling that everything is going to work out just fine in the end, and that robs what would otherwise be difficult decisions of their weight. The action hasn’t changed much, either, though the scene where you plant the TNT is enjoyable, and the final showdown features some nice cinematic moments.
Access Denied is on the shorter side — figure not much more than an hour — but I’d rather have it keep up a crisp pace than see it artificially padded with 20-30 minutes of filler. It also does a solid job of telling a self-contained story while still setting the table for the upcoming finale.
If you’re ranking Minecraft: Story Mode‘s seven episodes, Access Denied definitely deserves a spot in the top half. Sure, it tells a familiar story, but it does it in an enjoyable way while also building momentum; something that seemed unlikely late in the initial five-episode run.