Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two – Episode 3: Jailhouse Block Review
I have to start my review of Story Mode’s third episode, Jailhouse Block, with some bad news – news that seems very fitting of my Story Mode experience thus far. The installation of the third episode nullified all my decisions made in Episode 2, and maybe even further. In the cutscene that played out before my third adventure began, the “Previously on…” that catches you up with past decisions made, I was shown scenes that played out in the exact opposite way that I had chosen them. I made sure this wasn’t a technical error on my part, it was the episode’s doing.
If you’ve been reading my reviews of Story Mode up to this point, you’ll know that my faith in the decision-making aspects of gameplay were already low, but I’ll be damned if this didn’t seal the deal for me. These decisions don’t mean anything. That’s how I look at things from now on.
With that out of the way, Jailhouse Block finds Jesse and his crew tossed into the subterranean beyond where a new outfit awaits them all: prison jumpsuits. This prison, aptly named the “Sunshine Institute” is where the ever-antagonistic Admin sends those who oppose him.
It’s through these rebel scum that Jailhouse Block brings the rich character that Telltale games can sometimes capture. While not all the characters you meet in the Sunshine Institute are worth writing about, there are some new faces that keep things interesting.
“My erased decisions aside, it’s clear what consequences follow from Episode 2, because there are none.”
Characters like the Warden, and fellow prisoner/Hellboy lookalike, Oxblood pair well with the Sunshine Institute’s distressing setting. The bow on top of everything, as it has been in episodes previous, is the music that accompanies the action. From the moment you arrive in the down-deep prison, a song begins to play that reminded me of Drive gone Minecraft. Is it fitting? I’m not quite sure, but I really enjoyed the tunes.
But Story Mode has continued to fall short in its writing, and that’s just something that a narrative-based game can’t do – even if it is one meant for a younger audience. My erased decisions aside, it’s clear what consequences follow from Episode 2, because there are none. There’s maybe a line of dialogue to acknowledge what actions led so-and-so to that exact spot, but then it’s on to the bottle effect, keeping things contained within this story of the Sunshine Institute.
There are a dozen ways to explain how the writing takes a backseat in this episode, but it’s best done through how many puzzles and combat/quicktime scenarios take place in comparison to the previous episodes. These aren’t unwelcome additions, but Jailhouse Block introduces the first ever combat-based boss battle that I’ve ever played in a Telltale game. It was a breeze, as it should be, but it’s what it wasn’t that’s important. It wasn’t time spent bonding our group together or developing newly introduced characters. It was, at the end of the day, filler.
The Admin himself shows up, if only to cause some havoc, and the only character development we get is a glimpse into his motivations for being such a jerk. It would seem from what’s presented, the Admin is only making such a ruckus in hopes that he’ll make some friends out of those he torments. I may be riffing here, but this kind of motivation can only lead to an ending in which Jesse and the citizens of Beacontown accept the Admin as one of their own, even after all the crap that he’s pulled, and they sing kumbaya until parents begin to call the young heroes to the dinner table.
“I was happily surprised to see your decisions could change certain – albeit small – aspects of the story, but for the most part, there’s one linear tale to tell.”
There are two major decisions that occur within Jailhouse Block and I played through the episode twice to make sure there were actual changes in the gameplay. I was happily surprised to see your decisions could change certain – albeit small – aspects of the story, but for the most part, there’s one linear tale to tell. You’re going to be taking part in a jailbreak, it’s just about what uniform you’re wearing when you do and who gets left behind. In the standard I’ve come to expect from Story Mode, this was acceptable.
While those things would have led me to end on a happy note, I’m called back to what happened when I first pushed play: the fact that none of my decisions were saved from the previous episode. Will any of this matter when it’s time to boot up Episode 4? Does anything matter? Am I real?
Minecraft Story Mode Season Two started out on a high note for me, but as I wrap up Episode 3, Jailhouse Block, I’m to the point where the only notes worth appreciating are the musical ones. A story is slowly progressing, but I don’t feel like I’m having a hand in it, and quite frankly, I don’t know if I’d want to. Here’s hoping there’s still time to bring players back in on the action.
***PC code provided by the publisher***
- A colorful, sadly temporary cast
- Music, music, music
- Decisions had a slight impact
- Previous decisions didn’t matter
- Poor story development
- Writing took a backseat