There’s little doubt that Minecraft was the indie success story of 2011. Developed by a small indie studio Mojang, it picked up a huge following through positive word of mouth, going on to become one of the most popular games of the year. As with any successful PC title commentators wondered how long it would be until it was ported over to consoles. Well wonder no more as Minecraft is now available to download from the Xbox Live Marketplace.
The first thing that stands out about this version of the game is how faithful it is to the PC original. Minecraft isn’t exactly a game that easily fits into a set genre. It can probably best be described as an (almost) open world sandbox game that focuses on the act of creation and exploration. Featuring a charming blocky art style, the premise is so simple and so well implemented that it’s just one of those games that pretty much anyone can just pick up and play.
You start the game in a randomly generated island in the middle of a vast ocean. The terrain will feature mountains, jungles, lagoons, barren deserts, and dark caverns. The world is made up of thousands (possibly millions) of square blocks and every single block can be broken down and turned into resources, such as bricks, which can be used to create something new.
One of the more impressive things about Minecraft is the fact that each world is randomly generated and is therefore completely unique. Sure they’ll all use a lot of the same assets, but the terrain will never be the same shape or consist of the same proportion of elements twice. You can have as many worlds on the go as you like, although each world only has one save slot. This means that it is advisible to save regularly as there’s nothing worse than spending hours working on a structure, having something go wrong, and be forced to revert to an old save.
As the name suggest the way to get ahead in Minecraft is to dig for resources and build new items. At the start of the game you’re tasked with collecting wood to use to create simple tools such as a pick-axe or a sword. These basic tools can be used to dig deeper underground and at a faster pace in order to find more powerful metals and minerals to create better equipment. And you’ll need all the equipment you can find as when night falls the land fills with all sorts of aggressive monsters that want nothing better than to beat you to a pulp.
Every time you are defeated you drop every item in your possession. If you are quick and are able to get back to the spot at which you fell then you can pick up every item that you have lost. Even if you don’t manage to collect all of your equipment it doesn’t actually hinder your enjoyment at all, in fact I’d actually argue that there’s a lot of enjoyment to be found in finding the materials and remaking all of your lost equipment.
One of the most compelling things about Minecraft is the fact that there are really no specific goals or objectives, meaning you can pretty much do whatever you want and it never feels like you’re doing something wrong. At first it may seem a little daunting, but once you have crafted a few items and built a solid base then that’s when the real fun begins. I personally spent about four hours building a subterranean labyrinth in order to avoid the night time monsters lurking on the surface, and subsequently amassed enough stone to build myself a fortress. And I loved every second of it.
The Xbox 360 version supports up to four players in splitscreen as well as online multiplayer. While there is something to be said for the ability to play online with strangers, as well as friends, nothing quite matches the joy of playing Minecraft with friends that are in the same room as you. When inviting strangers in to your game there’s always the chance that they may go out of their way to sabotage everything you have built, and while you cannot guarantee that your friends won’t do the same thing, at least if your friends flood the tunnels you’ve spent a week building you can directly punch them in the face.
One of the most contentious issues surrounding this version of the game is its price. There’s no escaping the fact that Minecraft is one of the most expensive Xbox Live Arcade games to date, costing 1600 Microsoft points (about £13 or so). It may seem like a lot but all future updates for the game, including Kinect support, are included in the price. However this does require a bit of faith on the part of players as we have yet to have any official confirmation of the content of any of these updates or when they are coming.
Still, when you consider that the price of the Xbox version is about the same as the PC original and it has the added bonus of 400 achievement points, gamer pictures and avatar rewards. All in all it’s actually a pretty decent deal, especially when you consider the fact that you could potentially play it indefinitely.
Graphics: 4/5 – A bold and charming old-school aesthetic. Lots of bright colours and cute character models (yes, I’m looking at you piggy)
Sound: 3/5 – Perfectly adequate relaxing background music that doesn’t distract from the gameplay.
Gameplay: 5/5 – Minecraft’s strongest point. There are no real aims or objectives beyond surviving, building structures and amassing more and more equipment. The environments are huge and there are dozens of items to craft.
Longevity: 5/5 – As each world is randomly generated and you have an infinite number of lives you could potentially play this game forever.
Overall: 4 out of 5
The Xbox 360 edition of Minecraft is every bit as compelling as the PC original. It may be slightly more expensive than the average Xbox Live Arcade game but it is easily worth every penny.