Resistance is… Not Useful.
Access Denied, the penultimate episode of Story Mode‘s extended season, is exhausted creatively. The plot, which has Jesse and three of his pals marooned on a desert mesa with a villain that looks like the Sad Mac icon, is essentially an Invasion of the Body Snatchers tale, but it lacks any real sense of why this particular conceit—our heroes being attacked by mindless pod beings—makes for a good Minecraft story.
Previous chapters have had surprisingly fun takes on other familiar tropes like Episode 6’s Agatha Christie-style dinner murder, A Portal to Mystery. Perhaps this is too many episodes for Story Mode to bear—or maybe (fingers crossed) Episode 7's "been there, done that" vibe is just an anomaly, and the final chapter, A Journey's End will be just as good as Episodes 5 and 6. Either way, Access Denied is for completionists only.
On the plus side, actress Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) plays Harper, an Old Builder and the creator of PAMA, the (sort of) villain of the story. There are plenty of cute nods to “old tech” like how every time the scheming thinking-machine gets control of a new being, a zombie or, say, a member of the Order of the Stone, the faint sound of a dial-up modem can be heard. As with all Telltale Games, Access Denied is in no short supply of humor or good voice talents like Brown.
The problem is that at barely an hour the solo stories may finally have worn out their welcome. The main plot throughout these extra episodes has been Jesse doing his best to navigate a hallway of portals with the hope of getting the team back home. Yet this need to do just that has never been felt.
Back to this episode, PAMA’s main objective is not hard to guess: total assimilation of any thinking being in order to be the most useful AI in the universe. Fortunately, stopping this Sad Mac is not all that difficult, but I’ll leave that for readers to find out on their own.
Ivor, who was originally introduced in the first Episode to be a foil to Jesse, has easily become one the most memorable characters of the series. In this installment, his crush on Harper is terrific. The fact that she’s made into an evil sentient AI only elevates his adoration for her. Harper doesn’t desire that kind of admiration, but as the sole survivor, stuck fighting PAMA all by herself, the company of The Order of the Stone which includes even Ivor, is welcome.
But back to the downside, other members of the OotS are mostly squandered. Two of them get pod peopled quick which makes them useless for most of the episode.
As someone who was not impressed with Minecraft: Story Mode's premiere episode The Order of the Stone, over time I have grown to find the characters and their situations quite engaging. This "extended season" has delivered some of the best episodes.... until that is, Access Denied. From not really doing much with with the Borg vibe to not giving the interesting Harper enough to do, it is only in the last few moments that I had my faith renewed. Though episode 7 isn't exactly skippable, the drive to complete it even in an hour or so can feel unfulfilling. As I said, for completionists only.