I’m incredibly unhappy to be writing this review. I like to think I had reasonable expectations for this game. I was expecting a simple, fun game that built on the beloved Minecraft world. The only aspect it really delivered on was the simple part.
Minecraft: Story Mode doesn’t actually feel like a game. You can easily go several minutes without being prompted to do anything. That would be annoying enough, but that’s the least problematic aspect. There’s only two things you are ever prompted to do: pick from one of three responses to another character’s dialog, and press random buttons to speed along an action that the character will perform.
The trio of dialog options, which claim to direct the story, are entirely optional. You read that correctly. You see, your time to respond is very limited, and if you take a second too long to respond, Minecraft: Story Mode will just keep going without your input.
The other way you play the game (I use both ‘play’ and ‘game’ loosely here) is that occasionally a character will break down blocks or build stuff (it is Minecraft), and you ‘help’ them. But for some utterly baffling reason, you don’t use the normal Minecraft controls for these actions. You get prompted to hit random letter keys or the arrows for actions like building or breaking down blocks, and the characters perform their actions in a way that feels strangely disjointed from your button mashing.
There also seems to be little rhyme or reason to when you’re required to actually do something. These intervals of activity happen so sporadically that one is often a bit startled when the movie stops and you’re asked to make the character walk for a few seconds or briefly interact with something in the environment.
In all honesty, if they were going to go this route, I wish they’d taken their lead from Lego and just made an actual movie using the Minecraft setting. I bring up Lego specifically, because I’ve seen people defend Minecraft: Story Mode as a “kids’ game” and admonish everyone not to judge it by unfair standards. Yet Lego also makes video games based on simple building blocks targeted at young audiences–arguably younger than Story Mode’s “10 & up” rating–and their games are delightful to play for people of all ages. Just because a game has a young audience in mind is no excuse to dumb down the gameplay to such an extent. Kids, even young ones, are capable of much more than Story Mode gives them credit for.