Publisher: Microsoft / Developer: Mojang, 4J Studios /Played on: Xbox 360 / ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Fantasy Violence]
One of the most unique games released in the last decade, Minecraft has been dazzling PC gamers since its alpha debut in 2009 and delighting mobile gamers since 2011. The core gameplay is a hyper-addictive blend of gathering resources, crafting items and structures, and beating up monsters. Minecraft is a magical blend of dozens of small tasks adding up for one immensely gratifying experience. That experience is now available on the Xbox 360. And while the Xbox 360 version doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of its PC counterpart, it has a few embellishments to call its very own. Most importantly, it retains that addictive Minecraft magic.
There’s a cliche that goes something like this: “You’re only limited by your imagination.” In the case of Minecraft that’s actually true. The game is what you make of it. Some players will be satisfied spending hours on resource gathering and crafting cool items. Others will build elaborate structures that resemble real-world buildings. Sometimes, it’s just fun to run around the world and beat the crap out of pigs; pork chops are delicious and pigs are bastards. You need toof perform all of these tasks to succeed in Minecraft, but you can focus on the ones you want if that’s your thing.
Let’s start with mining. The most basic task in the game is chopping down trees for wood. This lets you craft basic tools like pickaxes for mining ore, axes for chopping wood down more efficiently, and fence posts to protect your home. You’ll need to mine all sorts of materials to build structures big and small in the game.
Hunting is a fun subsection of mining. Slaughtering cows leads to hides that can be used to make protective clothes. Sheep can be sheared for wool. Fish can be caught for sustenance. The animals in the game have practical uses…but sometimes it’s just fun to attempt genocide. Running through the land and slaughtering pigs for the hell of it really is joyful. Like I said before, pigs are bastards.
Simple tools give you the opportunity to mine more complex and valuable materials. This, in turn, leads to more complex and powerful tools. Wood swords give way to stone swords. Iron shovels are replaced with gold shovels. Iron armor is replaced with diamond armor. Creating better and better gear is one of the most addictive aspects of the game. It’s just fun to create better items and see the results on screen.
Monsters come out at night. That’s just a fact of life in Minecraft. You need to build protection for when that happens. You start with a basic fence to keep monsters at bay. From there you can build majestic castles, colonial homes, or modern duplexes. Some of the structures I’ve seen are amazing, though not necessary for success. Thankfully for people that suck at art (like me), basic structures are enough to keep the monsters at bay.
The best part of the Xbox 360 version is that all facets of the game are well explained through tutorials and hints, so newcomers will be able to jump right in. Crafting has been streamlined from the PC version too. The difficult trial-and-error system–or as I like to call it, the look it up on the wiki system–has been replaced with simpler item creation. However, some of the advanced features in the PC version like item enchantment and the hunger system are not yet in the Xbox 360 version. The map size is currently limited to 1,024 x 1,024, unlike the PC version. More advanced features are set to come in future updates, but for now the console version is a few steps behind its PC counterpart in terms of features.
Minecraft has several robust multiplayer features that add to the fun. Split-screen cooperative play can be enjoyed by up to four players. Keep in mind that you’ll need a large television to adequately support that many players. Most modern televisions will be able to support two-player co-op without any problems.
Thanks to Xbox Live, the game has some great online features too. You can set up a world and invite your friends to help you cultivate it. Party chat helps you coordinate fighting and building. Both online and offline versions offer drop-in multiplayer. Building a Minecraft world with friends is like a modern-day version of building a sandcastle or a LEGO town together. It’s a type of fun that isn’t found in many videogames and another reason why Minecraft is unique.
One area where the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft suffers is control. Moving the main character and fighting is fine, but navigating menus can be touchy. With the PC version, the precision of mouse-and-keyboard controls is perfect. The same goes for the touch controls in the mobile version. Making precise menus selections and managing inventory isn’t as smooth with a gamepad. The controls feel floaty and a touch inaccurate. Considering that you’ll be doing a lot of inventory management and item selection, this can be mildly bothersome.
Although it lacks some of the features and complexity of the PC version, the Xbox 360 edition of Minecraft stands up on its own. The addictive core gameplay of hunting, gathering, and building is intact, with streamlined crafting and multiplayer that make the console version unique. It’s definitely not a game for people with short attention spans or addictions to hyper-violence. If you have the patience and enjoying creating more than destroying then Minecraft is one of the most gratifying downloadable games you can buy for Xbox 360.