Damn, Minecraft: Story Mode goes places. Not satisfied with just opening flaming holes in the ground and attacking small towns with giant, possessed stone statues, Episode 3, perfectly titled “Jailhouse Block,” takes us all the way down to the bedrock, essentially the bottom of the Minecraft world, and then we go lower. How? How is this even possible? What is even going on anymore when the bottom of the world, the layer at which you can dig no deeper, is no longer the bottom?
When we last left Jesse and crew, The Admin had just sent him tumbling down into the depths. Hitting literal rock bottom, Jesse finds between the gates of the Sunshine Institute, The Admin’s own personal reformation lodge (we’re not allowed to say prison), and a literal hell maze, filled to the brim with spiders, zombies, Creeper Spiders, flying wraith squid things, bigger flying wraith, look I said it was a literal hell, didn’t I? It’s not long before the majority of Jesse’s crew find their way down as well, with Jack running in the same “you pissed off The Admin” circle, while Radar and Nurm are brought down as leverage to keep the two troublemakers in line. After one semi-dark scene involving an odd bit of torture, the plot moves at a quick pace towards the group’s inevitable escape.
Without going too far into spoiler territory, this mid-point episode had a number of high points, each of which highlight some of the things that Story Mode does exceptionally well. There’s a couple fight scenes scattered throughout the story, and while, in the first episode, controlling Jesse through these was more than a little awkward, they’ve now ascended to the point where they’re like little puzzles. One of the later ones, against multiple hell spiders, was especially satisfying because of the way Jesse moves and the arc his swing takes, letting me line up and hit more than one spider with every swing.
A new character is introduced, and while I won’t spoil her importance, her introduction into the group comes with one of those “You have to pick someone to leave behind” choices. It’s a goofy choice given the selectees, but because of the circumstances and the writing, it feels earnest in a way that many of these types of choices don’t, even when, to me at least, there was no choice as to whom I was leaving. Also, the unavoidable explanation conversation later, when Jesse rejoins the group minus the missing member, is handled like most of the disagreements have been so far in Minecraft; Jesse explains his choice like an adult, and while the disagreeing party doesn’t necessarily agree, they talk about it, like adults, and the issue is mostly settled.
Beyond that, there’s nothing really wrong with this episode. The small torture sequence I mentioned earlier is kind of lame, and I am at a loss as to why they decided to not only go that way but also go through the motions with the act, which although not really graphic in anyway, felt a bit gratuitous and out of place. It just doesn’t fit with the aesthetic at all, and it neither furthers our knowledge of The Admin, who we know already to be an evil bastard, nor change our opinion of The Warden, who carries out the act as a kind of weak willed proxy.
Clocking in at just over an hour and a half, Episode 3 has been the shortest on time, and yet still managed to bring the heat with some great scenes and set pieces. With as much as they have riding on their shoulders, the fact that Minecraft: Story Mode hasn’t turned into a heavy, Walking Dead-esque slog is a testament that you can still work through some deep subjects without needing to crush your audience beneath the heavy stone weight of dystopian reality. Minecraft and Telltale both continue to surprise me with this series, and I can’t wait to see how Jesse and Company deal with The Admin… eventually.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!