Game: Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition
Developer: Mojang AB / 4J Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Available on: Xbox LIVE Arcade Only
After some rather successful imitations on Xbox LIVE’s Indie Marketplace, the PC phenomenon that is Minecraft finally makes its debut on consoles with the Xbox 360 Edition. Does this version manage to build upon the solid foundations laid by its PC counterpart?
Upon starting Minecraft you’ll be given the option to go through a tutorial, now unless you’re a Minecraft veteran I highly recommend doing so. The brief but crucial tutorial will walk you through the basics of gathering materials and crafting items, the on-screen instructions can be a little confusing at times, but they do a decent job of getting you prepared before the first night falls.
Why is it important to prepare before night time? Well that’s when the Creepers, zombies and giant spiders come out. The enemies in Minecraft add that little extra spice as you never want to be too far from safety when the sun sets, you’ll spend the day in a frantic rush gathering materials and building your safe house. If you do fall victim to an attack you’ll lose everything you’re currently carrying, making it important to keep a healthy stash of materials and items in storage chests. The day night cycle is a little too fast, it would have been nice to have longer days to explore the world, or an option to choose the length yourself. Don’t fear if you just to want build without the threat of Creepers and such like, the difficulty can be switched to peaceful mode, which takes away all enemies leaving you free to concentrate on your creations.
You may be asking, “Apart from avoiding mutilation by various monsters what’s the main objective in Minecraft?” and the answer is that there isn’t one. From the moment you set foot into the randomly generated world, the only goals are the ones you set yourself. At first this can be a little daunting, as you stand with no materials, items or tools looking out upon a vast land in which almost anything imaginable can be built.
Although you really can build almost anything, if you have big plans you’re going to need an awful lot of time, patience and if possible some friends to help you. The Xbox 360 Edition of Minecraft is based on the PC version Beta 1.6.6, this means there’s no create mode. On PC, create mode allows you unlimited access to materials and tools, it even lets you fly, making construction a lot easier. For people not interested in spending hours searching for and gathering materials to build their structures, the lack of create mode could well be a deal breaker. Mojang has promised the game will be supported via free updates, which could lead to create mode being added at a later date but currently nothing has been confirmed. Although it can take a long time to turn vision into reality, the genuine sense of accomplishment you get as a result, is unlike anything I have ever felt in a game before.
You gather resources in Minecraft by simply walking up to one of the many blocks that make up the world, then holding the right trigger until it breaks down so you can add it to your inventory, the same block can then be relaid anywhere by simply pressing the left trigger. This simple elegant system makes for a very satisfying core mechanic and on the 360 Edition crafting has also become a lot more streamlined. Raw materials like sand, wood, and stone can be crafted into various items such as tools which make gathering materials faster, decorations for your buildings or items like a furnace which combine materials to make new ones.
Not all materials are easy to find, requiring you to dig deep underground. This is one of most enjoyable aspects of the game as some of the cave formations are vast and the sense of exploration is both rewarding and fun. The crafting menu is simple and easy to understand with each item listing the materials needed to make it. Providing you have enough of said materials, a simple tap of the A button will create the desired item and add it to your inventory. There is still some experimentation required though, as the game doesn’t tell you what combining different materials in a furnace will create, which is nice because it makes finding those rare combinations more rewarding.
At first glance, Minecraft’s blocky aesthetic may not seem that appealing, but the pin sharp high-definition visuals give the game a memorable and unique look. Music in the game is sparse but fits well with its overall tone, it being so gentle at times you hardly even notice it playing in the background. The monsters sound considerably less impressive but the sound of placing down each block is incredibly satisfying.
Earlier I mentioned that having help from friends is a great way to speed things up in Minecraft, however the Xbox 360 Edition is somewhat limited in this regard. It should be noted that you can play locally with up to three other players via split-screen which is definitely a welcome feature, but for most people Xbox LIVE will be how they connect and build with friends, but sadly the game is definitely behind the PC version in this area.
For a start only 4 separate players can join up online, oddly if you’re playing with 3 friends via split-screen it is possible to join up with someone else who is doing the same over LIVE, bringing the player count to 8, but this a situation most people are unlikely to find themselves in. The main issue though is that the 360 version lacks dedicated servers, this means that if the player who started the world is not online, no one else can enter and continue an ongoing project. Most of the huge structures you may have seen on the PC version were built by groups of 20+ people, all joining and leaving at different times that suited them. The 360’s more limiting online structure means massive projects will take an incredibly long time to complete.
VERDICT: Minecraft is not a game that relies on cutting edge visuals or even physics, and because of that it has a truly timeless appeal. Be careful though, Minecraft is a love it or hate it kind of game, if you connect with its ideals, at 1600 Microsoft Points you’ll unlikely find a better value game on the market. However, if you lack the patience or simply wish for a more focused experience, there really is nothing for you in Minecraft. The lack of a create mode and a disappointing online system hold the game back from reaching the heights of the PC version, but the core mechanics which make Minecraft so special are here and executed perfectly. So if you’ve been eagerly awaiting the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft, dig in, you won’t be disappointed.