Adrian jumps back into the world of blocks and gives you his opinion
UPDATE: Updated to clarify multiplayer information.
Minecraft. I have a weird and colourful history with this game. From playing the PC game every now and again before it was much of a game to helping run a wildly-used server which required hours of work almost daily, the idea of a console version got me asking a few questions. Namely “how will they make the unique controls work on a controller?”; “How will updates be handled?”, and last but not least; “With the amount of sales the PC version had, who’ll be buying this console version?”. That last question is the basis for a whole other article, so I’ll try and answer the first two, and give my impressions on this interestingly-done port by 4J Studios.
Let’s start with the control scheme. Given the original PC version was played with a mouse and keyboard, it’s no surprise that there’s just a ton more keys and shortcuts Mojang could throw in to their block-busting-and-building title. Surprisingly, 4J seem to get around the limitations of a controller. Using the left and right triggers respectively, you’ll be putting your selected blocks down and mining them/swinging your item. This leaves the bumpers to switch between the items you have placed in your hot bar. It’s simple and quick to move around your active items, even if you don’t have a number-pad in front of you. The controls work alright, but you’re without that direct control the PC version gives you. Also, some movements just seem to be a tad floaty.
Navigating around menus such as when you open your inventory, chests, etc. is possible with both the D-Pad and an on-screen pointer which you move around by using the left analog stick. Unfortunately, both of these control schemes for getting around such menus is just clunky and annoying. The D-Pad method just takes a while to get from item to item and the on-screen cursor is just plain hard to use accurately.
Visually, the game retains the classic Minecraft look that you’ve all probably seen by now. Unlike the PC version, however, there are no mods or extra tools that can be downloaded from the Internet and thus unless 4J can come up with some way to bring popular PC content to this version as downloadable content (which is understandably highly unlikely given the scope of this release) you’re left with standard Minecraft all the time. I don’t think that this specifically is an issue which people just coming in to the game will really care about but it will probably be missed by avid Minecraft players.
Even saying the above, the visual style still works well even if you’re on a big TV (smaller TVs have some issues, but the game is still definitely playable).
Multiplayer is based on peer-to-peer architecture for online games with seven other people able to jump in to your world. Locally, there is a limit of four players in your world at any one time. You can only invite friends (or jump into your friends world), which makes sense. Obviously restricting entry of your world to your Xbox LIVE friends list lowers the chances of having your world griefed. You can also play the game locally, but do know that you will need an HDTV to be able to play with four players on the one TV.
This version of Minecraft has no Creative Mode (which might be a feature coming soon, as 4J have been pretty vocal about updating the XBLA version so it’s as close as it can be to the PC version) which means you’re left with a pretty fleshed out Survival Mode. As I’ve mentioned above, the UI has been redesigned to work on an Xbox 360 controller and aside from some floaty controls the game seems to work well. The way you start a game is pretty much identical to the PC version of the game in the sense that when you create a world, you can select a seed to spawn in (or just keep it blank and get a completely random map) and select your difficulty. Unlike the PC version, however, there are four difficulty settings to choose from: Peaceful, Easy, Normal, and Hard. Peaceful allows you to play the game without fear of getting killed by a roaming skeleton (or other creature) wondering around. In fact, it completely disables enemy spawning.
From Easy and going right through to Hard, enemies will spawn around your world.
A rather nice touch is a Tutorial world which 4J added to the game. You’ll be taken through all the fundamental mechanics of Minecraft and then given the opportunity to go out into the cold, cruel, blocky world and give the game a whirl. It’s a rather good introduction to the game, and it's something that the PC version lacks.
Overall, Minecraft is an Xbox 360 port of the famous PC game that, while lacking many features that for obvious reasons are exclusive to the PC version, it is certainly a great version for players who don’t necessarily want to play the game on PC or who want a version of Minecraft that they can use to simply play the core game or join their friends’ worlds and build together. Players who are serious about Minecraft are better off sticking to their PC version though, especially given the equally same price point between the two platforms.
The classic Minecraft feel is retained in this port. A tad more fun with friends, but if you want gameplay modifiers, look into the PC version.
Music and Sound
The same Minecraft soundtrack remains, and those instrumental tracks are nice for the first or second plays. They do repeat a ton, though, and thus get really tiring really quickly.
Minecraft is not a story-based game. Story will not be scored nor taken into consideration.
Be prepared to use your blocky tools and play with blocks. Lots of them.
Minecraft’s multiplayer is confined to four-players, which is considerably lower than the PC version where, on strong enough servers, you can see upwards of 100 to 200 players. Still, if you just want to build stuff with some friends, it’s not bad and works fine.
If you keep working on a project or just love surviving and moving around the world, you’ll have a ton of reasons to come back to Minecraft. However, there is a world border, so don’t do too much wondering.
Overall, Minecraft lacks a lot of features that its PC counterpart has but it’s a well-done port and a great title for people that just want to build stuff and survive without worrying about all the superfluous stuff that the PC version has to offer.
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition was reviewed on the Xbox 360 version of the game, provided by Microsoft.