Genre: Adventure Developer: Mojang Inc. Publisher: Mojang Inc. Classification: G Release Date: 9th May 2012 Platforms:XBOX360
Average of 4 Ratings
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I never got to review Minecraft. Nobody did - no matter how you feel about the game, when it was designated a finished product was nothing more than an arbitrary change from 'beta' to '1.0' to coincide with Minecon and increase the price. And some people have never ever played Minecraft - as extraordinary as that might seem to most gamers. Because of that, this Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition review might cover ground you are already familiar with.
I remember my first journey into the world of Minecraft. I stood on the sand covered shore of an island, staring at a copse of trees and knowing nothing about the game - other than that I should play it. This was just before the incredible boom of popularity Minecraft saw - a couple of friends had been hooked by the game and told me I'd love it. Clicking, I punched at a block of sand next to me, and then I rapidly clicked at it until it 'popped' into a tiny cube. Moving closer, I picked it up. I did the same for the grass-covered dirt further in from the shore and then I walked up to a tree and rapidly clicked at its leaves.
I can no longer remember whether it was a tree or stone that I attempted to collect next, but suddenly things were going wrong. I couldn't click fast enough to get it to break, no matter how hard I tried. It never occurred to me to hold the mouse button - because the first item I'd attempted to collect had been broken down simply by clicking, I assumed clicking was all that was needed. I knew I'd be able to make a pickaxe, a shovel, an axe and various other items at some point, so I expected they would drastically lower the amount of clicking required. I opened a chat window and complained to my friend. "You have to hold down the mouse button" he told me - and when I attempted this I felt like an idiot. Which is apt, because I was an idiot.
Usability is something Minecraft has struggled with since its beginning, because it isn't designed with it in mind. The game's creator Notch clearly doesn't care about it - every update to Minecraft's usability has been at the request of its users. When 4J Studios took on the task of adapting Minecraft to the Xbox Live Arcade, the odds were stacked squarely against them - not only did they have Minecraft's complicated nature to deal with, they also had to make it work on a controller. While the Xbox 360 is undeniably strange to use, they did a truly outstanding job.
The first thing that sets Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition apart from its PC predecessor is the inclusion of a tutorial. 4J have included a specific tutorial level, designed to teach you everything you need to know about Minecraft, as well as how to come to grips with the Xbox 360 controller. It teaches you the different way things interact, has you build a crafting table, furnace and torches and does a great job setting you up for playing the game. Looking at different blocks tells you how they are used - sticking to the basic elements of course, to keep Minecraft's mystery and exploration in tact. It even teaches you about minecarts and tracks - elements many players don't even touch until they are several dozen hours into the game.
There's no dancing about it, the Xbox 360 controller makes things difficult - although 4J have managed to find a set up which isn't too convoluted. Luckily, precision aiming isnít necessary, eliminating one of the more frustrating elements - although the inventory and crafting systemís use of a cursor is unfortunate. Your inventory is a grid with the items inside and to move items about, you use the right analogue stick to drag a browser about the interface. 4J have thankfully made the cursor snap to boxes - a sensible decision - but a list based inventory would have been better still. Keeping the grid format is especially confusing with the different style of crafting.
To craft an item you only need to look through the list - tabulated by type - for the item you are after and if you have the ingredients, you can create it. Some people might find this disappointing - it takes away the need to discover items by placing crafting materials and seeing if it works - but while the crafting system was always neat, I donít want to even imagine how horrible it would have been otherwise - putting your items into the crafting table, splitting and moving them, splitting and moving them, making your item and then recombining them all without a mouse and shift key.
And in a way, no matter how neat it was to discover something through crafting, it became a boring mess without the Minecraft wiki to source from after a while - some of the crafting designs are intuitive, but others were just plain ridiculous - and they take away from the action in Minecraft - exploring and building.
People build massive colourful monuments to their favourite things in Minecraft. They recreate iconic landmarks and set pieces from popular media. You can smelt stone in a furnace to get rid of the cobblestone look, dye sheepís wool different colours and you can use redstone, the gameís electrical component to make objects move and change shape.
You can build a massive city, stripping the landscape and under the earth for your materials until you create a town so big you canít see the other side of it. Lay minecart tracks down the major roads, creating a train station to different different districts.
Or just explore - pick a direction and head in it. Explore caves, grab ore to smelt into mining equipment and just keep moving. You can create a bed if you want to change where you respawn - Minecraft is full of cave networks which can take hours to traverse - just make sure you arenít somewhere you can be attacked when you sleep. This is your world - you can do whatever you like and you donít have to worry about anyone else.
Of course, thatís only in single player - you donít have to worry about other people in multiplayer, but expect to be shunned. Multiplayer Minecraft is more about co-operation rather than competition and it is one area the Xbox 360 port truly shines over the PC.
Instead of the slapped together terror which is the vanilla Minecraft multiplayer (ip server joining, the awful server-side software), the use of Xbox Live means the Xbox 360 Edition naturally has much better support. On top of that, it comes with split screen multiplayer (although only on HDTVs) - and while split screen is rarely ideal, itís an amazing way for a veteran Minecraft player to help out someone new to the series.
Multiplayer changes the fabric of the game too - working with someone means youíll have different things to strive for. Building something is more compelling when you have someone else to work with, or even just someone else who will see your efforts. It feels good to know youíve achieved something together - and there is nothing like a hundred metre tall statue of pikachu to commemorate that fact.
One thing which many Minecraft fans will be disappointed with in Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is unavoidable - itís several iterations behind the PC version and there naturally will not be mod support. Personally, Iím not concerned in either case - the game is very stable, not missing anything truly amazing and while mods can be nice, Iíve always preferred the vanilla gameplay anyway. If you canít live without mods however, obviously you shouldnít grab it.
If you donít need mods and prefer to play on your Xbox 360, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is much better built than its PC partner. Long time fans will no doubt find some of the differences disappointing - for instance the world is limited to 1024x1024 - and while this is small compared to the PC version, with an 8 player multiplayer limit itís still massive. If you are looking to finally see what the fuss is about, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is an excellent purchase.