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Game review: Minecraft on Xbox 360

24 May 2012

Over the last couple of years, Minecraft – which started as a small indie game in alpha development back in 2009 – has grown to a fully fledged release, gathered a cult following on PC, and now made the leap to consoles with its latest release on Xbox Live.

For those who haven’t been living in a mine, or a cave, or a fortress made from solid diamonds in the last couple of years, here is a run-down on what you’ve been missing.

Minecraft is a sandbox open world game where you are free to create anything you like. Everything in the game is crafted from a low-resolution 3D block style, from the landscape, to the animals and the tools and furniture you can create. The game sports two modes: Creative, where you have unlimited resources to build anything you can imagine, and Survival, which drops you on a randomly generated world with nothing but the shirt on your back and leaves it up to you to find wood, craft some basic tools and then create yourself a home before darkness falls. You will quickly discover that the world of Minecraft is a two-faced mistress, as when the square sun goes down behind the hills, all manner of nasty creatures come into being: zombies, skeletons, spiders and worse, all wanting very much  to make dinner out of you. For those who don’t want their idyllic sandbox spoilt by horrible monsters the game also features a ‘peaceful’ setting, but where’s the fun in not running for your life each time the sun goes down?

While the initial concept is simple, Minecraft has captured that addictive ‘one more thing’ gameplay that elevates a game from a simple distraction to a life-swallowing, time-sink obsession. Build a cool little house to hide in? Check. Hmmm, a bit small - what about a castle? That would be cool. Check. Could I build a minecart train connecting the two? That would be handy. Check. Did I really just spend all night playing Minecraft? Yes. Yes, I did.

With Minecraft coming to Xbox 360, gamers who haven’t yet experienced the game can get their first shot in the digital block-bashing world. At 1600 Microsoft points it is one of the more expensive Xbox Live Arcade offerings out there - but it does offer a slightly different experience to the PC version.

For new players, there is a handy tutorial which guides them through many of the key mechanics of the game. Players of the PC version will immediately notice that the crafting system has undergone a huge overhaul for its console debut. The original PC crafting system, which required players to place ingredients on a 3x3 grid in a particular pattern to create a new item, has been overhauled by a menu system that allows items to be created at the click of a button provided the player possesses the relevant ingredients in their inventory. The formula-based system still runs behind the scenes, and players can see which particular elements of the recipe they are missing, but the mechanic is much quicker and easier to use then the manual positioning found in the PC version.

Part of the reason behind adopting this is that using the Xbox 360 controller it’s much harder to select and move specific items compared with using a mouse. In another change, players have been given a ‘quick move’ option for moving inventory items in and out of chests to the player’s action bar. The other cool thing with the new crafting system is that it shows you immediately all the things in the game you can create - which is a great source of inspiration for things to make later in the game, and doesn’t require you to search Google to find the combination/recipe to make that powered minecart rollercoaster ride you were dreaming of.

PC users of Minecraft will be a bit disappointed to find that the build is a slightly earlier version then is currently on the PC – however, one can only hope that the updates on PC will eventually make their way to the console version. Additional features like texture packages are also not available on the console version, but again, this may change in time.

One of the best features of Minecraft on the Xbox 360 is the multiplayer, and while it doesn’t offer the same functionality as the PC version, it makes a great split screen co-op game if you have a significant other in the house who’s keen to play with you. The game supports up to four-player split screen, and while it brings its usual frustrations of smaller field of view and smaller inventory boxes/text, it adds a great social aspect to the game. While I am the type of player who carves out huge caverns and builds massive (albeit a bit empty) castles, my co-op partner followed along happily planting colourful flowerbeds and crafting furniture, floors and windows, breathing life into the shells I had created.

While the Xbox 360 version won’t replace the PC version any time soon for Minecraft ‘purists’, it does bring all the core things that are great from the original title, as well as making a few changes that actually work better.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a minecart subway to finish building.

Graphics 7

Sound 7 

Gameplay 8.5

Lasting Appeal 8

Overall Score 8