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'Minecraft' is a Surprising Hit

Telltale Games

Minecraft is one of the most surprising hit games in recent memory. The game was developed initially by a single person, and had an incredibly simple design. When you started the game, you were dropped into a randomly generated world built out of 3D cubes, and you could remove and replace these cubes to build whatever you wanted. Later, crafting, enemies, villages, and multiplayer were introduced to the game, but the basic premise of gathering resources and building with them remained unchanged. The game has no narrative or characters to speak of.

Telltale Games - the company behind game adaptations of Game of Thrones and Back to the Future, was tasked with building a narrative for Minecraft in their new episodic series, Minecraft: Story Mode - which is, despite the name, a standalone game that doesn’t require you to have Minecraft, or even to ever have played it before.  The game is being released in 5 episodes, and I was able to play through the first one.

Your character, voiced by comic Patton Oswalt, leads a team of builders that, through a series of unfortunate events, soon face end-of-the-world peril. The story feels like an homage to movies like The Goonies and Stand By Me, with goofy fun interspersed between the heavy stakes the player faces.  Like other games by Telltale, this one plays a lot like a choose-your-own-adventure book. There is a little bit of action that requires quick reflexes, but most of the game is spent directing your character’s dialogue choices and making decisions on where to go next.

I was skeptical that a story could even be told within the context of Minecraft’s universe, but this game is smart and witty, and uses its setting to great success, making this the best game like it I’ve ever played.