TNT Plus Arrow.
[Warning: Minor spoilers.]
Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 2 is subtitled "Assembly Required", which is fitting since the focus is on Jesse gathering members of the Order of the Stone in the hopes of stopping the Witherstorm. Their names are Magnus and Ellegaard: two legendary heroes, who it turns out, hate each other. Over the span of six brief chapters Jesse ends up acting more like a therapist than an adventurer.
The main plot of the series (so far) has been for Jesse and his pals to find a way to save their world from annihilation. By the end of episode one, the plan was to find the aforementioned members of the Order. Depending on how you play, you may or may not have one with you already: the soft-spoken Gabriel. Sadly, I didn’t not save him so my team was in need of more veteran fighters.
Jesse must use the amulet he acquired at the end of episode one to find them. There is a fun moment where players can rotate the amulet as a sort of compass that works quite intuitively with the controls. These are the parts, though few and far between, that keeps the gameplay humming along.
Eventually, the amulet leads to meeting Magnus, the King of Boom Town. Convincing him to join your team is the first and best section of episode two, as Magnus is, as expected, a full-of-himself jerk. A big part of the charm of Minecraft is the pointed jabs at celebrity culture in the era of Comic-Con. Magnus has been the de-facto leader of Boom Town for ages, undefeated in matches to overthrow him. Jesse hopes that Magnus will join the fight for honor, but no such luck.
Boom Town is host to the Deal Bowl, which is a sort of Ninja Warrior–style obstacle course where TNT boxes must be avoided with the usual QTE moments. As Jesse, I crafted an arrow in hopes of exploding the TNT before it reached my side. The humor and gameplay are a fun mix here, although one too many Boom Town residents called me "noob" one too many times. Magnus has plenty of fans on his side to jeer at my every move. Even better is the banter between Magnus and Jesse. If you ever wondered how pink wool could be used in a conversation about explosives, this is the game for you.
Ellegaard, the engineer of the Order eventually joins your team too, also can’t stand Magnus. In the tradition of adventure games, I was allowed to choose sides or be neutral. I chose Ellegaard’s side to spite Magnus, just because I could. That’s always been one of my favorite aspects of a Telltale game: being petty amidst a universe-ending story.
After that sequence, however, the rest of Assembly Required is light on story beats. Without spoiling, there’s more bickering, more explorations of a few more areas. But strangely Jesse and his team, Olivia, Lukas, Petra, Axel, and loyal pet pig Rueben (who is said to smell delicious), have little to no character development. There is something that happens to these mates, but even that is handled as more of a teaser for episode three. There would have been time to explain more about this revelation if episode two was longer than two hours. With such a quick pace, the second chapter doesn't leave much of an impression. Case in point: Chapter 4 felt like it took a mere 15 minutes to get to the "Chapter 4 Completed" achievement.
This was by far the most buggy of Telltale games I've experienced so far. Several times the lip-sync would be off. I realize we’re talking about blocky Minecraft-style mouths, but regardless, it was noticeable. The colorful subtitles, which I always use, had moments where snippets of dialogue would be added or otherwise taken out when the actor recorded the lines. The weirdest glitch was the one concerning achievements: I finished all of episode two and only received achievements for completing chapters 1, 4, 5, and 6. How did that happen?
The world of Minecraft alongside all the fun inside cracks at geekdom is the right fit for Telltale, but so far these first two episodes have failed to craft anything remotely as engaging as The Walking Dead or the excellent Tales From the Borderlands. Jesse, whether voiced by Patton Oswalt or Catherine Taber, remains a solid lead character as does his companions, but the Witherstorm premise and to a lesser degree the villainous Ivor are not compelling yet. Here’s hoping that with more time to develop episode three, this story mode finally delivers.