When Markus Persson took the name “Notch” and developed the budding version of a blocky exploration-based game called Minecraft, the indie game had a bit of a negative and underdeveloped connotation to it. It wasn’t until Minecraft gained steam in late alpha and early beta that everyone saw the pixelated sun coming over the horizon. Something big was on the way. In 2009, Minecraft picked up financial and fan support, netting over four million addicted PC gamers before being fully released two years later. Notch continued to develop Minecraft on PC, until a deal with Microsoft allowed Xbox 360 owners to discover the world of Minecraft for themselves. Finally, after years of anticipation, the blocky behemoth has landed on Xbox Live Arcade as Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition. While some bits and pieces of the PC Minecraft experience have been removed, there is still a huge amount of creative content available for perusal in Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition, resulting in a fantastic world that simply shouldn’t be missed by Xbox 360 owners.
Minecraft revels in its pristine simplicity. You play as a random adventurer in a blocky, LEGO-esque world, armed with only wits and an unstoppable desire for discovery. By harvesting resources like wood, stone or wool, you can then build items to harvest more resources, which can be used to build more complex or resilient items, along with full dwellings. Wood can be gotten from trees; stone can be obtained from mining. However, the rarer items aren’t without their challenges. Finding the better resources requires digging deep within the world’s underground or even taking out the rather rambunctious monsters that exist in the dark. Even more challenging is the nighttime, where the monsters run rampant, leaving your blocky adventurer vulnerable. This requires a careful management of resources (including time, since the game takes place over the course of “days” and “nights”), but the recurring goal of simply surviving the night is omnipresent.
Minecraft, at its inner-most essence, has no real goal, which can throw video game theorists for a loop. It’s a game where the player can explore the distant lands, mine for resources, and pretty much do whatever they feel is most important to them. There are some rarer and more valuable items and tools to construct, but aside from some remarkably easy Achievements, Minecraft is whatever the player makes of it. It can get formulaic at times (surviving every night just to mine more resources does have its share of tedium), but there is a very steady learning curve tied closely with a fine reward path. Being able to move past a simple coffin to survive the night and actually sleep in a log cabin’s bed is very encouraging. Players might witness colossal castles throughout Minecraft, and while it may seem like a distant dream, it is possible and Minecraft nails that perfect progression of making something incredible from humble beginnings. That being said, Minecraft is not a game of instant gratification. It’s a very subtle type of sandbox experience where action isn’t the name of the game, so those who’ve played more intricate sandbox games may find the slower pace of Minecraft to be a serious detraction. Still, if you’re interested in a one-of-a-kind experience, Minecraft is a fine example.
To everyone who has already played the PC version of Minecraft, the 360 edition will offer no surprises. The dual-analog controls work well enough, but the lack of mod and texture support at launch is sure to disappoint long-time players. Even more discouraging is that worlds have noticeable invisible boundaries, so the adventure will block players off if they reach the end of a world. However, the 360 edition does have a simple crafting interface, split-screen multiplayer (for HDTV’s only), and upcoming Kinect support. The tutorial mode is perfect for learning about the world of Minecraft, though, making the 360 edition feel more like an introductory package than the near-infinite world that the PC Minecraft has become. It’s based on an older version of the game (incoming updates are promised as free), but the 360 edition still remains a solid game that doesn’t lose the fundamentals of the Minecraft experience.
Its purposely blocky aesthetic has long since been Minecraft’s most distinctive feature, giving it wide comparisons to LEGO and other building kits of gamers’ childhoods. The 360 edition doesn’t ignore any of the quirky charm of Minecraft. Though worlds are boxed in by invisible walls, there still is a sense of unbound freedom and discovery that simply cannot be duplicated. Everything from the single pixel sun to the exploding Creeper enemies has endless creativity. The serene musical compositions continue the laid-back vibe, though the growls and slurps of the enemies are bound to leave some people cringing, whether in disgust or pure fear. Call it blocky and overly minimalist if you want, but Minecraft is a game with charm and lots of it.
[pullquote_right]…console gamers who’ve waited patiently for a Minecraft experience will find an engaging and magical world that has yet to be truly replicated until now.[/pullquote_right]While some might think that 360 gamers have gotten the short end of the stick (and that may be a bit true), Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is a fine port made especially for console gamers that doesn’t ignore the core value of Notch’s triumphant world. The fundamentals of mining, constructing, and exploring aren’t ignored in this console port. Every critical value is translated without any significant hindrances, and while PC Minecraft users won’t find anything new here, console gamers who’ve waited patiently for a Minecraft experience will find an engaging and magical world that has yet to be truly replicated until now, console or otherwise. The inclusion of split-screen multiplayer and improved crafting with a solid online component and easy-to-drop-in world construction all show that care has been taken in making a console Minecraft. It won’t replace your tried-and-true PC Minecraft experience in any way, but Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is an experience that shouldn’t be missed by any console gamer. Pony up the 1600 Microsoft Points and grab your pickaxe, because you will get lost in Mojang’s masterful world and you won’t want to leave.
Relaxing and laid-back sandbox experience | Incredible amount of charm | Purely original
Lacks some options and modes from PC version
It began with a hand-me-down Sega Genesis from his cousin and since then, he's been fascinated with video games. He enjoys the blissful platforming of the 16-bit era and the rich adventures of the 64-bit era. Favorite games include Metroid Prime, Banjo-Tooie, and practically every 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog title.
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