Every so often, a game comes along and takes the world by storm, surpassing everyone's expectations. Whether it's the 'virtual doll house' The Sims which was initially considered too much of a risk by company directors but then went on to become the biggest selling PC game of all time, the Skylanders 'Toys to Life' explosion, which has shifted a whopping 250 million toy figures since it's inception back in 2011, or the time Wii-remote-wanging dancing title Just Dance knocked Call of Duty off the top of the charts. All perhaps pale in comparison to the sheer phenomenon that is Mojang's megaton, the virtual LEGO-building-esque Minecraft, which broke record after record following it's launched, knocking The Sims off it's best-selling plinth, gaining it's own MineCon fan convention, notching its creator a cool billion dollars, and, most recently, earning it's own story-driven spin-off game in the form of Minecraft: Story Mode.
Developed by the legendary point and click masters Telltale Games, who've worked with everything from Game of Thrones to The Walking Dead to Monkey Island, Minecraft: Story Mode takes the same Minecraft world millions upon millions fell in love with, and turns it into a single-player, story-focused adventure. Playing as either a male or female hero called 'Jesse', you set off on a perilous adventure across the Minecraft Overworld, searching for the legendary Order of the Stone - four adventurers who once slayed an Ender Dragon. An elite collection of a Warrior, Redstone Engineer, Griefer and Architect, these heroes are the only ones who'll be able to save the Minecraft world from destruction - so it's up to you to track them down and save the world, learning all about the ins and outs of Minecraft as you go.
And perhaps that's one of the biggest things about Minecraft Story Mode. It doesn't matter how much you know about Minecraft, whether you're a novice, or a seasoned veteran - while those who know the game inside out will be at home, it's easy for newcomers to pick up and get playing, too.
For those of you that have never tried out a Telltale game, they toe the lie between a traditional point-and-click and a choose-your-own-adventure book. Story-driven, and often with game-changing decisions to make, their engrossing stories are sometimes backed up by puzzles too, where you need to collect up seemingly random items and put them to new and interesting uses to progress - combining a colander and a coat hanger as an anti-hypnotism hat, adding jelly mix to some water to make it easier to walk across a floating log or pocketing a remote control 'just in case' you come across a TV in zombie-apocalypse-torn Georgia. Chatting to anyone and everyone is a must too, as often you'll need their information or items to help you on your way. While more recent Telltale games have introduced quick-time press-the-button-as-it-appears-on-screen action sequences to add a bit of variety to the standard formula, Minecraft: Story Mode takes things a step further, with the introduction of crafting and building, both central to the title that inspired the Telltale spin-off.
Minecraft may seem a little bit of a departure from Telltale's more recent output, which has been taking on more and more adult, 'mature' franchises as of late, such as the zombie-filled Walking Dead and the incestuous, bloody, violent Game of Thrones. Still, family friendly colourful games are something Telltale know well - and given Minecraft's popularity with younger folks, Telltale are planning to stick to a much more family-friendly story, with less emphasis on moral 'which character do you want to die the least' decisions, and more age appropriate tugging on the heart strings, with plenty of difficult - and story changing - decisions to be made, adding plenty of replay value. More light-hearted, along the same lines as their earlier Sam & Max and Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People seems to be the plan.
Like most of developer Telltale's outputs, Minecraft: Story Mode is split over several smaller 'episodes' - five to be exact. Kind of like your favourite TV series, each of these episodes adds up to tell the whole story of Minecraft, over a number of bite-sized individual games, with a new one out every few weeks/months/arbitrary time period, helping spread the love around. While most Telltale games have been digital only releases, Minecraft shakes things up a bit by releasing on a disc, and as a download at the same time. If you have a preference for owning a physical disc, you can buy one and get access to all the episodes day and date as they become available online. Or, if you prefer to get your games digitally, you can do that to, either buying the episodes one by one to see how you like it, or going the whole hog and buying the season pass, which will let you download all the episodes as they release. The physical disc comes with episode one pre-loaded on the disc, with the other episodes available to be downloaded as they're released through an in-game menu - so you'll need an internet connection whichever one you buy. Either way, it's great for gifting, especially come Christmas.
Minecraft: Story Mode kicked off digitally on the Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PC, Xbox One and Xbox 360 a fortnight ago, with episode one and two now available online, while the physical disc based release is also available as of today. As for when the subsequent episodes will release, we're not quite sure - while previous Telltale series such as The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones, have worked on a roughly two month interval between instalments, Minecraft seems to be (thankfully) delivering them somewhat more promptly, meaning the saga could be finished by Christmas. The only other real unknown at the moment is when the promised Wii U and PS Vita versions will land - your guess is as good as ours, really. Still, if you're after a present for a Minecraft obsessed kid (or other half!), it's well worth taking a look at Minecraft Story Mode. Why not check out the launch trailer to get a flavour of things to come: