As a boy, I spent the majority of my time locked away in my room with my LEGO, building cities, spaceships and all sorts of other fantastical bits and bobs. As I grew older and my love for video games took over, I was forever searching for that truly sandbox experience.
I dabbled with level editors of all kinds but nothing quite allowed me the freedom that I so desperately wanted. Then, along comes Minecraft. In an age where games are far too readily acclaimed or dismissed solely on graphics, Minecraft delivers constant playability in blocky, pixelated form. When it finally came to XBLA, I was ready and waiting.
The game opens with a short tutorial which takes you through the basic gameplay. It works well and is remarkably simple to use. The crafting system has been tweaked for the X360, using a one click approach which works well for the controller as opposed to the traditional PC method. If you have enough resources to craft a particular item, one click will do it.
Once the tutorial is done, you can head out into the world. There are varying levels of difficulty, from peaceful and Creeper-free to hard and Creeper-filled. If you want to explore and build without threat of attack, opt for peaceful, otherwise, pick one of the others. I played mostly on normal but whatever way you want to play it, the basic premise is the same. Collect resources, build a shelter and explore the gloriously colourful block world.
Playing solo is all well and good but the multiplayer is where the game comes into it’s own. Exploring, mining and building with friends is brilliant fun, especially come night when you all scramble madly to knock up a hut to escape the assorted baddies who come groaning and shuffling across the landscape.
There are a few issues with Minecraft on the Xbox and it’s not perfect. We’re lacking some of the features of the PC version, sure, but that will come hopefully come in updates. The real shame is the lack of co-ordinates on screen, which mean once you’re lost, you’re REALLY lost. Also, it can make it a little tricky to find your way back to dungeons that you find, or rich resource areas once you’ve moved to a different area of the map.
The other big shame is not having dedicated servers to host worlds. It means you can spend hours in a friends game, building a world together, but when he leaves for non-essential things such as food or sleep, you have to leave too and start over in a world of your own. For many Minecrafters, the main appeal of the title comes from building with friends, and losing your expansive castle (or giant penis, pending on your preference) that you’ve spent hours working on because of this is quite a large flaw.
That aside, Minecraft is a truly wonderful sandbox game with near infinite possibility and one that I would recommend to anyone. Get it, make sure your friends get it and then book yourselves a couple of weeks of work because it is truly, truly addictive.
+ Gameplay over graphics, but Minecraft’s well known 8 bit blocks provide some surprisingly gorgeous scenery
+ Near infinite possibility in a sandbox game that never ends
– Lack of dedicated servers make it hard to have ongoing worlds
+ Fun, old-fashioned sounds
Minecraft is out now on the XBLA for 1600MSP.