Minecraft: Story Mode Preview

Damn pig!

At first glance, the mere concept of a Telltale adventure in a Minecraft world, which emphasizes player freedom and is devoid of voice-acting, might seem like a stretch in terms of narrative and dialogue choice. But similar criticisms could have been lobbed at The Lego Movie, yet that movie was able to craft a dimensional cross-over extravaganaza with a titular character voiced by Chris Pratt that was altogether a favorite for both fans and critics. Minecraft: Story Mode aims to do the same thing in the video game space, with the player controlling a protagonist named Jesse, voiced by Patton Oswalt, who must save the world from an Ender Dragon.

The hands-on demo for Minecraft: Story Mode at PAX has the player choose both the gender and the race of Jesse from among six available options, though the demo does lock the option to the simple overalls-wearing white male. On his way to EnderCon, Jesse loses track of his pet pig, Reuben, who is dressed in a dragon costume that has been set on fire. His best friends Axel and Olivia also help in find Reuben but Jesse is the man for the task, looking at pig tracks, finding trees burnt to a crisp, and calling out to Reuben: "All pigs but Reuben, shut up!"

Eventually, after scouring through spider-filled caves, Jesse finds Reuben hiding behind a bush but soon finds himself surrounded by zombies and creepers. Armed only with a crappy sword, both he and Reuben become injured but his other friend, Petra, is able to save the pair with her pickaxe. She takes the Jesse and Reuben into the safety of the tunnels, where she gives Jesse the components to craft a stone sword and reveals that she's trading a Wither Skull for a Diamond to some secret person (cue plot point).

From there, the story skips several scenes to Endercon where Jesse, Petra, Axel, and Olivia are all having a fantastic time until a giant tentacle beast that looks straight from Lovecraftian hell is summoned into the sky and begins shooting tractor beams at the convention-goers. Jesse must complete several dodging action sequences, where the player must avoid pitfalls and eyebeams, grab a hold of objects as tightly as possible, and save other characters who are being sucked into the tractor beam.

Jesse and his friends attempt to retreat to the obsidian temple held by the Order of the Stone, but it's soon overrun and Jesse must choose either to save Petra or the temple leader Gabriel. I chose to save Gabriel, and it looked like I would be able to save Petra too, but a tentacle knocked Jesse back into a portal. Luckily, Gabriel gave Jesse an amulet and a mission to find two figures that could help restore the world. End scene.

Minecraft: Story Mode looks to be one of Teltale's strongest episodic tales yet, especially given the originality of the storyline and the serious but still playful treatment of the Minecraft world. The best part is that you don't need to know anything about Minecraft, really, to enjoy the game, though knowing Minecraft will help in all of the referential humor. Minecraft: Story Mode will release later this year for PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4.