It’s finally happened, the phenomenon that is Minecraft has made its way over the Xbox 360. Part of Microsoft’s Arcade Next promotion, does it manage to live up to its PC counterpart? Read on to find out.
Game: Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition
Developer: Mojang/4J Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Price: 1600 Microsoft Points
Even if you’ve never played it, chances are you’ve heard or seen videos of the phenomenon that is Minecraft. Best described as a block-building and crafting sandbox, there’s no real goal or objective, it’s just you and the limits of your imagination. Hell, there’s not even any cutscenes, over-the-top set pieces or voice acting. For some, that description might be an instant turn-off, but others will embrace it and spend hours engrossed in their world as they build and craft items to their heart’s content. This is no over exaggeration, if you get it (and many people will), minutes will literally turn into hours.
Saying that though, if you’re a newcomer to Minecraft, you’ll more than likely feel a little overwhelmed with the options at your disposal when you step into your created world. Thankfully, the Xbox 360 Edition pops up with tutorials when you encounter an item (material or otherwise) for the first time. If you wish to, you can also play the entire tutorial separately before creating your own world. Either way, like the majority of the game itself, the choice is totally yours. As helpful as the tutorials are to newcomers, going through them means your first few hours in the world of Minecraft will be spent reading descriptions and tips. It probably won’t be a major issue to most, but the tutorials also take a little something away from the wonder of finding a new item or material and stumbling upon its use yourself.
Once you’re used to the core mechanics of Minecraft, the world is literally your oyster. You’ll spend the majority of your time in the day collecting materials and crafting items using the table or furnace you learnt how to make during the tutorial. Depending on the materials you have at your disposal, you’ll be be able to craft weapons, building blocks and all sort of other fancy items. For instance, if you have some wooden blocks and sticks in your inventory, you’ll be able to craft a wooden pickaxe or shovel. Each tool has limited use though, and how long you’ll keep hold of it depends on the material it’s created from. As you explore your world you’ll comes across stronger and more unique materials, allowing you to not only create tools that last longer, but other special items too.
Unlike the PC version, the crafting aspect of Minecraft is made ever so slightly easier in the Xbox 360 Edition, as you’re told exactly the materials you require to create an item whether it be a mining tool or otherwise. You simply bring up your crafting menu, go to the relevant section, pick out the item you want to create, press A and you’re done. It’s even incredibly easy to sort out your inventory, as you’re able to add and remove items with no trouble at all. In fact, the entire game uses the Xbox 360 controller very well, with using items tagged to the left trigger and attacking or mining attached to the right trigger. Building a house to keep you safe at night from zombies (more on that later)? All you have to do is equip some blocks (wooden or cobblestone) and other relevant items to the bar at the bottom of your screen, press the left trigger to place them where you want and off you go. It’s a simple process, but one that can take a while if you’re looking to build an epic resting place.
You’ll need a decent place to rest too, as the night brings with it not only darkness, but zombies, spiders and arrow throwing skeletons. If you’re playing on the normal or hard settings, you’ll want to make sure you step into your humble abode as soon as you seen the sky getting dark. They might look cute and harmless, but they’re most certainly out to kill you. If they do, you’ll respawn near your bed or in a random location near your house without any items whatsoever. Much like Dark Souls (not as hard), if you go back to the spot you died, you can reclaim all your items and continue to brave the night. You’ll have to defeat the enemy that killed you, but with full health it’s not exactly an impossible task.
Zombies and spiders aren’t the enemies you should fear the most though, as that crown goes to the Creepers. These pesky buggers can appear in your world during the day (without the fear of getting burned) and night, looking to explode near you and destroy anything within their radius. It’s genuinely heartbreaking to see a Creeper pop up near the house you just built and blow half of it to pieces. There’s a reason why there are thousands of Creeper videos on YouTube, they are incredibly annoying. If you don’t want any hassle whilst your building or crafting away, you can choose to play on the peaceful setting, eliminating the appearance of Creepers entirely. However, in a funny way, their existence serves as test to see how attached you are to your world and the creations that reside in it.
What a charming looking world it is too, with its 16-bit era style visuals somehow endearing you to game even more. In no way does Minecraft match up to the majority of current generation titles, but that’s not what its aiming for anyway. The world is filled with bright and colourful blocks, with even the cows, chickens and pigs that roam the land blending in well with the game’s overall look. As mentioned before, voice acting is non-existent, but you can expect to hear the strangely relaxing sounds of cows during the day and the eerie moans of zombies at night. There is background music present at all times, complimenting the tone of the game nicely, but you’ll barely notice it as you’re busy mining and building during the day.
The PC version of Minecraft wouldn’t be the success it is without multiplayer functionality, and the Xbox 360 Edition follows suit. It supports up to four players in local co-op and eight players online, however the Xbox 360 multiplayer isn’t as expansive as its PC counterpart. With no dedicated servers, friends will have to wait for you to be online and invite them to access your world. This means your friends won’t be able to continue work on half finished creations unless you’re online. As you’d expect, this works the other way too, so you won’t be able to enter your friend’s world unless he or she is online. As the Xbox 360 Edition is based on PC version beta 1.6.6, there are a few other negatives too. The lack of a create mode, giving you the ability to fly and unlimited access to materials/tools, is a massive shame. Exclusion of mods will also be a massive negative for some, especially as Minecraft on the PC placed a massive emphasis on community creations. However, Mojang has stated they’ll be updating the game regularly, so hopefully create mode and the ability to mod will be patched into the Xbox 360 Edition soon. Facebook support is present though, allowing you to take screenshots and share them with friends.
With no real objective or goals, Minecraft is the true definition of a sandbox game. Sure, it has certain boundaries and limits, but the experience is dictated by your imagination alone. Want to spend the day building an epic castle? Go for it. Maybe you just want to relax and spend a few hours mining for cobblestone? No problem, you can do exactly that. It’s these simple elements along with the plethora of options that made Minecraft a mammoth success on the PC, and the majority of them have made their way across to the Xbox 360 untouched. The lack of create mode, mods and dedicated servers will be seen as major negatives to hardcore PC players, but for everyone else this is an excellent opportunity to dig into Mojang’s fantastic creation.