Review: MINECRAFT: XBOX 360 EDITION does its best to rise to the blocky heights of its PC predecessor…
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is more than just a decent facsimile of its PC progenitor. In some ways it could be considered better, or at least purer. There have certainly been a few concessions made to get it on the Xbox 360, but the changes are thoughtfully implemented and the limitations hardly noticeable. Remarkably – and thankfully – what makes Minecraft the phenomenon it is at its core is uncompromised in this port – it’s still an incredible sandbox creation suite, and just as fun and immersive as its PC brother.
For the uninitiated, Minecraft is a game all about destruction and creation. Thrust into a randomly generated retro-3D world with nothing but your bare hands, you must gather materials, survive, and build whatever you can imagine. Essentially, it’s digital Lego. You start by punching the ground and trees to gather blocks of dirt and wood to build a shelter, then begin mining for more hardy and precious materials.
Monsters terrorise the surface come nightfall and dwell deep underground in caverns and dungeons. As you mine more materials you can craft tools, items, weapons and armour to build more resilient structures and survive monster attacks. There are no goals and no predetermined story; it’s just you and the world – a sandbox waiting for you to dive in and create. The pinnacle of emergent gaming.
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is most reminiscent of the 1.6 beta build of its PC counterpart. Much of what is now established Minecraft content, such as alchemy, enchanting, levelling and certain monsters and animals are out. However, though it certainly feels like a different beast than its current form, for early adopters of the PC version it will be pleasantly familiar.
For newcomers, this version is arguably the most accessible. Crafting items and tools, for example, is now a far simpler task than manually placing materials on a grid to the correct blueprint. Through a tab system, interacting with the crafting table shows you everything that can be created and the materials they require. It’s then a matter of simply pressing A on what you want to craft after having gathered the necessary materials - a welcome change from the Wiki-fuelled research required for the PC version.
The PC version’s Creative mode, which allows you to spawn any type and quantity of blocks you desire, has been unfortunately omitted. The incredible structures possible in the PC version simply can’t be done here (well, not currently at least – 4J Studios are working on additional content). This does, however, provide for a more traditional game-like experience. You’re forced to search out the materials you desire, to dig expansive mines and explore every inch of the world. Sadly, the generated worlds are also significantly smaller than on PC, with jarring invisible walls cropping up to halt your exploration.
Although it’s a smaller world, it’s still massive, and that’s a big part of Minecraft’s appeal. Building your first shack and mining nearby keeps you entertained initially, but eventually you’re going to want to branch out and find new grounds to pillage.
Setting off in hope of finding greener pastures can be a dangerous adventure, with monsters lurking behind every sunset. And with death comes an instant respawn at your bed or initial spawn point, but all the items you were carrying are dropped. Finding the spot where you died and getting everything back can prove to be a frantic and frightening quest, although bringing a friend or seven along certainly helps.
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition may not include the server support of the PC version, but an up-to-eight-player multiplayer mode via Xbox Live allows you to drop in and out of friend’s world and invite players into yours at will. Moreover, you can play with up to four players in split-screen and bring them all online. Cooperating with friends to slay monsters and build ambitious structures is hugely rewarding, made all the better when you can so easily communicate.
It might have a narrower scope, but Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition provides the same creation-fuelled immersion of its predecessor. It’s far more accessible in this form, with a new tutorial option to ease newcomers into the basics, and multiplayer has never been better. It’s just shy of the brilliance of the PC version – but not by much.
Despite concessions, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition successfully taps into that creative spark in all of us, just like its PC parent. It’s without equal, now on two platforms.
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition, from Mojang, 4J Studios and Microsoft Studios, is available to download now on the Xbox LIVE Arcade.