There's a Let's Play of this episode too, with the first episode up here.
Minecraft: Story Mode
Still don't like the Adventure Pass stuff much. I really want to, you know, and I think with a few tweaks, I could. I'm delighted by the fact that Lukas is getting a bigger role in these episodes, and I think that there's potential for them to be interesting explorations of how Jesse and his friends work with their new 'Order of the Stone' status and authority, but they're so divorced from the main plot that I can't really get into them.
If they'd been purely DLC, I'd probably look on them a lot more favourably, but since they weren't, we remain stuck in this position where I feel like I should like them, but instead I just kind of hate them.
Picking up not long after A Portal to Mystery, Access Denied sees Petra, exhausted and frustrated at the gang's failure to return to their own world, insists that they travel to a redstone world, in the hopes of finding engineers who can help them figure out a way home. Instead, they end up in a desert world, where all the monsters and most of the people are under the control of PAMA, a sinister computer that wants to make everything 'useful.' As the gang teams up with PAMA's creator, Harper, an Old Builder who helped build the portal network, they decide to take down PAMA once and for all and free the people of that world.
|I think there's a high probability that Ivor is going to choose to stay behind with Harper,|
In terms of gameplay, this episode has all the usual stuff: Quicktime events, choices without any consequence (although the more self-contained nature of it means that it can give you choices that affect the entirety of the episode, such as whether you free Lukas or Petra - I chose Lukas, because I want maximum Lukas/Jesse interaction time), and point and click sections. It has an interestingly quirky moment where you have to jump between bodies as part of a neural interface to try to get close to Harper, but when you boil it down to its base components, even that section is just a quicktime event.
Unlike A Portal to Mystery, this episode doesn't have a cutesy gimmick, and to be honest, it's better for it. Without the jarring moments where the incongruity of Youtubers populating the world throws you out of the story, this episode actually has a pretty good, mostly self-contained narrative. It's a tried and true, pretty well-worn one - evil computer enslaves people because it thinks that's what its programming imperatives are telling it to do, horrifying its creator, has to be taken down by a gang of plucky misfits - but it's no less fun for that.
PAMA is given definite shades of both HAL 9000 and GLaDOS in his characterisation, but manages to stand out as his own character fairly well, and one that meshes with the wider tone of Minecraft: Story Mode pretty well. He's childlike and comically happy and enthusiastic about everything, but there's a definite sinister undercurrent that sets in pretty early on, which gradually intensifies as the story goes on.
Similarly, the story actually manages to communicate the tragedy of Harper's situation fairly well, despite approaching it with the comic hamfistedness that by now is probably Minecraft: Story Mode's trademark, as Jesse and the others find machines of hers that seem primarily programmed to assure Harper that she's a good person.
The story ends on an action sequence which is probably the best this series has had since the final battle against the Wither Storm, as Jesse runs about PAMA's heart, alternately trying to sabotage him with water and duel either Petra or Lukas, while PAMA alternates between ranting about his inevitable failure and begging him to stop.
While this is definitely the best episode we've had in this series since episode four (which I'm not sure anything will top, but we'll see what episode eight has in store for us), it still all feels rather hollow. The story doesn't really have any lasting impact, bar that Jesse and the gang are now closer to getting home, although it's looking increasingly likely that they won't until the very end of the eighth episode.
Since we don't get much - or actually anything - in the way of previews for the Adventure Pass episodes, we're completely in the dark about what episode eight will involve, bar that finding a compass that will let he gang find the portal back to their own world will be a part of it. That's not a lot to go on, and the only preview image we have is a rather generic one of Lukas and Jesse sprinting into a portal, so we know basically nothing about what's coming out.
I'm holding out hope for the Ender Dragon returning, just because it really would make the perfect coda to the Wither Storm story, but we'll see, I guess.