There’s something quite familiar about the start to the fourth episode of Minecraft: Story Mode. A Block and a Hard Place picks up right after the enjoyably dramatic twists and turns at the end of the third entry in this season, its understandable that we see our band of heroes on the run once again and trying to come to grips with the consequences of what’s just happened.
It plays out in a manner that we’ve seen a few times before, with a QTE-driven action sequence in which you have to dodge objects and enemies while occasionally having to match the inputs on screen, or the way that you have to juggle the different personalities in the party, in the face of the latest seemingly impassable hurdle. You can see the game going through some of the same motions as it’s been through in the last two episodes, certainly, and so it’s up to the characters and the story to keep you engaged and invested.
On the one hand, you have the Order of the Stone. Dragged back together by Jesse, Olivia and Axel – perhaps with Petra and Lukas alongside – over the course of the first three episodes, the stories of the Order’s historic heroics have been a convenient mask to the coming of age of this small group of heroes.
It’s easy for Jesse to act as the hero and the role model, depending on how you want to play as them and how you pick your dialogue options, but it’s really quite gratifying to see the growth of their friends. Having been too afraid in the first episode, Axel willingly took the burden and the inherent danger of being the decoy for the latest last ditch attempt at victory, while, with a little coaxing, Olivia can finally come to believe in her abilities as an engineer.
Admittedly, it’s done in quite a clear cut, family-friendly fashion, but it works well amidst further revelations and surprises surrounding the Order of the Stone. Certainly, it’s quickly become clear over the course of the series that not all is as it has seemed, first with conveniently sidelined members and now with far more fundamental flaws in their stories. However, these provide a great backdrop for Jesse and his or her friends to really come to the fore.
Though I’m critical of some repeating gameplay tropes in the series, this episode does also do quite well to feature a few more puzzles. Navigating a large maze does lean toward the tedious – and doesn’t exactly make too much sense in the world of Minecraft, where you can break down walls and build bridges in moments – but the puzzles through which you piece together some of the key moments from the Order of the Stone’s past are enjoyable, and it’s nice to see elements of crafting involved as well. However, on the whole, these puzzles are still rather simplistic, aiming to be easily accessible for children.
But what’s most fascinating of all about this episode is that it’s not the end of the series, but quite definitively brings this particular story arc to a close. When they’ve created a whole world of characters and stories within the Minecraft Universe, taking us to The Nether, to the Far Lands and everywhere between, you have to wonder what story or stories Telltale want to tell in the fifth and final episode.