After a plodding first episode, Minecraft: Story Mode wastes no time in getting to the good stuff in its latest installment. Episode Two is an incident-packed, propulsive adventure that again feels quintessentially Minecraft, both in how it taps into the game's lore and the huge community that has sprung up around it.
(Watch out--there be story spoilers below. If you want to go into this episode fresh, skip to the last paragraph. Read our review for Episode One here if you want to catch up on our thoughts so far).
This episode's intention to move quickly is evident from the get-go, placing you (as lead character Jesse) in a minecart speeding through the Nether. Your partner in the cart is determined by which member of the famous Order of the Stone you decided to pursue at the end of Episode One. If you decided to try and track down Magnus the Griefer, then burly Axel is your wingman, but if you went for Ellegaard the Redstone Engineer, then inquisitive Olivia is your partner. Both of these paths offer engaging gameplay, but you'll only get to experience one in any single playthrough as their disparate paths converge in the second half of the episode.
It's worthwhile playing through both of these, as they're fun in quite different ways. Magnus' path is the more action-orientated offering, filled with twitch quicktime events as you navigate through the aptly named Boom Town while being pursued by packs of Griefers. As in the actual game of Minecraft, Griefers here exist primarily to annoy and blow stuff up, and quick reflexes are required to avoid the barrage of TNT thrown your way. It's good to spend time, too, with the character of Magnus himself, who's wonderfully brought to life thanks to a quirky performance from Corey Feldman.
Ellegard's path isn't as kinetic, and hews more closely to the light puzzle-solving and character focus of the first episode. That's not to say it's dull, though: Ellegard's base of Redstonia is filled with eccentric characters all vying for Ellegard's approval through their wacky inventions, and some of Episode Two's biggest laughs can be found here. Ellegard is also an excellent character in her own right; she's haughty, proud, and charmingly dismissive, and is more than well served by the excellent performance of voice actress Grey Griffin.
Things don't slow down once these two storylines converge. The entire group (joined by a character from Episode One that's dependent on a choice you made late in that episode) heads off to pursue yet another member of the Order of the Stone, and the focus is yet again on action. The final sequence, is a tense, involving affair, an awaited standoff that ends on a modestly exciting cliffhanger.
The game's portentous voiceover pretends that that cliffhanger more exciting than it actually is, which is a slightly disappointing way to end such a fast-moving episode. And while a new mystery is introduced in Episode Two, the game's main plots aren't really progressed in significant ways. The drama around The Order of the Stone and the solution to the potentially world-destroying Wither Storm still remain as obtuse as ever.
I'm hopeful these mysteries will receive some much needed illumination in the next installment which, on the strength of Episode Two, can't come quickly enough. If you've been playing the series with your children, rest assured that this Episode continues in the same kid-friendly, cheeky vein of the first. I played this with my six-year-old son, and while he was engrossed throughout, his first comment upon completion was to express disappointment that it ended so quickly. Yes, Minecraft Story Mode Episode Two is another brief adventure, but it's an entirely compelling one throughout.