With the series’ debut late last year, the prospects of a narrative take on the mega-popular Minecraft from Telltale Games was always an idea that may have been met with more raised eyebrows than sheer excitement. However, with the series going on to its sixth installment, Telltale has proven that Minecraft: Story Mode has plenty of stories to tell with the nearly limitless potential of Minecraft.
The sixth episode of Minecraft: Story Mode (titled “A Portal to Mystery”) is perhaps the most unusual in the series, in that we have yet to see from any of the previous episodes. Like the equivalent of a “bottle episode” in a TV series, Episode 6 puts players into the middle of a Minecraft “murder mystery,” and making for one of the most unique entries in the series yet, while bringing some new ideas into the fold (at the expense of some of the series’ continued problems).
Coming from the last episode which showcased the first true adventure for Jesse and his gang as the “New Order of the Stone,” Episode 6 instead offers a more self-contained story where Jesse & Co. are transported to new surroundings after traveling through a portal. While diving headfirst with a sense of adventure, the gang instead finds themselves trapped in a secluded mansion, where a mysterious stranger known only as “The White Pumpkin” is becoming a more looming threat as the clock ticks in the night.
Compared to the more rousing and light-hearted adventures that Minecraft: Story Mode has offered in its previous five episodes, the unusual structure of its sixth episode is a pretty welcome change of pace, and more often refreshing than it may be considered jarring. As an episode that contains a mix of surprisingly darker elements (but still within the general lightheartedness of its Minecraft-inspired world), Story Mode‘s sixth chapter is a nice diversionary tale.
Of course, the episode is also bolstered by some notable guest stars that play into the central mystery at hand: a band of characters named after (and played by) notable YouTubers/streamers from the Minecraft community. Specifically, the band includes appearances from popular Minecrafters such as Stampy Cat, DanTDM, CaptainSparkles, LDShadowLady, Stacy Plays, Cassie Rose, and TorqueDawg.
If those names bring out only blank stares on your face, you don’t need to worry as their appearances are more or less elaborate cameos, but are a clever and well-integrated nod to the larger Minecraft community and sure to please the younger players (and target audience) for the game. The game even includes some fun jabs for those that aren’t Minecraft-crazed experts, as one dialogue option I encountered had CaptainSparkles responding, “You don’t know me? I have 9 million followers!” — adding a nice meta-twist to the game’s narrative and world.
With its combination of a murder mystery aspect and some humorous guest stars, “A Portal to Mystery” and its relative “bottle episode” nature serves as both the strongest and weakest element of the chapter compared to the series at large. It offers a great change of pace, serving a focus more on investigation and having to piece together clues to try and track down a killer, compared to the more action and crafting heavy elements that we’ve seen in Story Mode so far.
However, the biggest critique against Episode 6 (and reflective of the series as a whole) is that decision-making options in the episode have little effect on either previous events or those to come. Given that most of the episode’s events act within a vacuum of its space and setting, it’s still a bit disappointing that Episode 6 continues with Story Mode’s general lack of keeping player decisions and actions into account in a meaningful way.
With two more chapters left from the current story arc, Minecraft: Story Mode offers an episode that provides both a delightful diversion and a curious detour in the larger context of its tale. Though some may be let down by its general lack of relevance within the greater plot of Story Mode, “A Portal to Mystery” is still a well-crafted piece of Telltale Games’ adaptation. Its light-hearted take on a murder mystery serves as more than just a wild diversion, offering instead a fun episode with great guest stars and a compelling mystery.