Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3
This review will avoid significant story spoilers.
After a strong debut with Episode 1, Minecraft: Story Mode followed up with the slightly clunky Assembly Required. With Episode 3: The Last Place You Look the series returns to much of what made its opening chapter so good. While die-hard Minecraft fans might be left wishing the series embraced more of the building and crafting of the original game, Episode 3 delivers charm, humor, and drama leading up to a surprising end that will leave players anxious for the next installment.
Running and Monsters
While Episode 2 suffered from a general lack of action, some of Episode 3's strongest moments come from its dramtic combat scenes. Nothing in the game will challenge the average gamer in any way, but the dodging and slashing required during monster attacks manages to capture a bit of the Telltale excitement we saw in the brawls of The Wolf Among Us.
Combat is exceeding simple while still being fun, but the stripped-down simplicity doesn't work as well in the game's "puzzle" segments. Once again it's hard to ignore that this is the most kid-friendly Telltale title to date, as you can imagine younger gamers playing their first adventure title getting a kick out of solving puzzles that amount to "flip every switch." For older players though, these puzzles will hardly register as challenges at all.
If we don't stick together...
Regardless of the lack of challenge, Minecraft: Story Mode manages to succeed based on the strength of its storytelling and characters. In Episode 3 the series echoes elements of The Walking Dead, with players tasked with managing the emotions and needs of their various friends and team members.
If you've played Telltale's other titles then this kind of gameplay will be familiar to you, and Story Mode doesn't offer anything new or better in this regard than the developer's previous games, but what's in the game is well done and can be surprisingly dramatic at times. Story Mode is shaping up to be a great title to introduce gamers to the adventure genre, and if it can encourage some rabid Minecraft players to consider the emotions of their digital pals then it deserves heaps of credit.
Episode 3 gets an injection of excitement in its second half, just when it starts to drag a bit, by the introduction of a character voiced by John Hodgman. Hodgman fits perfectly into the talented cast of voice actors and comedians, and his character is responsible for the funniest moments of the episode.
High-fiving a pig
Halfway through Minecraft: Story Mode, the biggest weakness of the title is the lack of stuff to do that actually feels like Minecraft. Occasionally you'll be tasked with assembling something on a crafting table, but it seems like a missed opportunity not to have some more open ended crafting and building in the game. There are times when it becomes necessary to dig or build a structure, and it would be absolutely perfect if in those moments the gameplay felt more like actual Minecraft. Instead you're left mashing "Q" or selecting what to build from a few different dialogue options, which never feels very satisfying.
Episode 3 also seems to screw something up regarding one of the handful of big choices in the chapter. Once you complete the episode you're presented with the choice you made compared to the percentage of players who made that same choice. One of the choices in this episode regards whether you give Reuben, your pet pig, a high five. I can't imagine any player who wouldn't choose to do this (which probably means it's not a very good "choice") but I and a substantial percentage of other players on the first day of the game's release were told we chose not to do this. But I never made that horrible, horrible choice of leaving my pet pig hanging. Instead I apparently missed whatever opportunity I had to give Reuben the high five.
It's unlikely high-fiving a pig will end up having huge consequences in the final episodes of Story Mode, but it still left me frowning to know I had missed out on a chance to do it.