A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Minecraft: Story Mode -- Season Two is a narrative-driven adventure set in the world of Minecraft. Play centers on choosing responses in dialogue, not collecting minerals and crafting items. Combat is infrequent, mild, and cartoonish. Battles see human characters using swords against blocky monsters, but they involve no blood or gore and typically end with enemies disappearing in puffs of smoke. The game's hero, Jesse, can be customized in terms of gender and skin tone. He (or she) is clearly out to do good, helping friends and protecting civilians, but the player's choices in dialogue can alter the tone of responses, making Jesse seem sensitive or uncaring, empathetic or reactionary, playful or a bit mean.
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What's it about?
Everyone (except, of course, poor Reuben the pig) is back for more blocky escapades in MINECRAFT: STORY MODE -- SEASON TWO. Picking up where the first season left off, Jesse -- who once again can be male or female, as per player preference -- is in full-on hero mode, basking in the love and affection of average citizens whose lives he saved. But things start taking a turn for the weird when he visits the mines to help Petra carry out a mission to find a strange creature. One thing leads to another, and Jesse suddenly finds himself wearing a weird glowing gauntlet on one hand and staring into a terrible looking crevasse that he and Petra dub the Heckmouth. The rest of the first episode is spent questing to seal up the Heckmouth, though even if they're successful it won't necessarily put an end of the danger the pit represents. As in the first season of this Telltale adventure, players spend most of their time listening to dialogue and choosing Jesse's responses when prompted. Simple action and combat sequences involve tapping buttons on cue, and a handful of puzzles see players crafting whatever happens to be needed at the moment.
Is it any good?
Those who've played the original (or any Telltale game, for that matter) know what they're getting here; a dialogue-heavy interactive story with bursts of action. That said, Minecraft: Story Mode -- Season Two has a leg up on its predecessor in that it's paced better right off the start. This could be because it assumes that players are familiar with the first game, know the cast, and understand how things work, so there's less time wasted in establishing the world and its characters. Plus, the story kicks into high gear within the first 15 minutes, sending Jesse off on an adventure full of twists and turns that just keep coming. And fun new characters -- like a famous one-time adventurer named Jack who accompanies Jesse and Petra while learning to face up to his fears -- inject just enough newness to freshen up the formula.
Telltale games, however, are always a bit of an acquired taste. Kids who love the social and creative aspects of Minecraft won't find much of either here. A crowd-play mode lets a group of players vote to decide how to respond in dialogue situations, but the majority of the group will spend most of its time simply watching the story unfold. And while a handful of puzzles and tasks allow players to assemble ingredients to make items like torches and cakes, no imagination is required. The ingredients are readily available, and the proper recipe is automatically provided. And so Minecraft: Story Mode -- Season Two earns the same qualified recommendation as its precursor: It's fantastic for Minecraft fans who've been dying for a real story in their favorite game, but inessential for almost everyone else.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Individual episodes within Minecraft: Story Mode take around two hours each to complete, or around the time of a feature length film, but is this an appropriate amount of time for a single game session, or should it be broken into two or three plays?
Talk about the differences between the original Minecraft and this spin-off series. Do you prefer being creative and messing around with friends, or experiencing a story and getting to know characters while playing alone?
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