Only six months after the release of the full version of Mojang’s Minecraft on the PC, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition, developed by 4J Studios in conjunction with Mojang and Microsoft Studios, was released for Xbox Live Arcade.
Minecraft is a 1st-person sandbox-building-survival game. You are placed in a world with nothing but a map and your bare hands. Luckily, just like in real life, your hands are powerful enough to break down wood from trees to begin crafting materials and tools. Initially, your goal is to gather materials and build shelter before nightfall when all sorts of baddies come out. However, Minecraft really shines with its unique ability to allow players to create practically anything they can imagine.
The graphics possess an unmistakeable vintage charm and look fantastic in HD. Everything in the Minecraft world is made of colored and textured blocks, all of which (except Bedrock) can be mined to be used as building blocks or to craft items such as tools, weapons, and armor. There is even a system to create surprisingly complex electrical circuits that can be used to power doors, pistons, rails, and dispensers. The inevitably iconic soundtrack is somewhat inconspicuous though nonetheless pleasant. Delightful piano interludes add serenity and wonder to your new world while the sound of your footsteps on the terrain below fortify Minecraft’s adventurous atmosphere.
The Xbox 360 version has added an easier crafting mechanic than its PC counterpart. Though it makes crafting a breeze for even the most casual players, it may leave fans of the original longing for the sense of accomplishment provided by discovering a new recipe. The Xbox controls are simple and comfortable. A quick run through of the tutorial should well prepare you for the game. Additionally, helpful tips will pop up when you come across a new block in your world.
Though the Xbox version lacks the popular Creative Mode of the original, there is an option to turn monsters off by choosing ‘Peaceful’ as your difficulty setting. Playing Minecraft on ‘Peaceful’ may not earn you much respect from hardcore players but you may appreciate the ability to work uninterrupted in your world. For those workaholic players that get tired of sleeping every time the sun goes down; if you don’t mind a minor sacrifice in visuals, you can turn the Gamma setting up in Help & Options allowing you to see better in the dark. These options add to Minecraft’s ability to be played on your terms which is somewhat limited on Xbox compared to the PC version.
Minecraft’s possibilities seem endless. I perpetually create tasks for myself during each session. As you explore the highest peaks and the deepest mines, you will continually find more areas you want to explore. There aren’t many games that can provide this kind of long-term appeal. Even fewer gaming experiences can parallel the excitement I feel when I come across an unexplored cavern within a mine (especially when that cavern contains a rare block like Diamond).
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition also succeeds in its inclusion of multiplayer. Though the PC version also supports multiplayer, Xbox Live is arguably the best multiplayer platform available. Players can drop in and out of their friend’s worlds with ease or invite them into their game. It is incredibly fun working on projects with friends or trying to figure out fun ways to (harmlessly) booby trap their houses. All progress – including inventory – is saved in whichever world you are playing in and will be available to you when you rejoin that game.
Survival can be challenging if you are not well prepared to face a night full of battle. You are only able to do damage to an enemy once every second or so. This disables players from button mashing anyone to death. I found that playing multiplayer with the difficulty set to ‘Easy’ was a lot of fun. As you work together to protect your structures from foes you will quickly learn to fear the sound of a Creeper preparing to explode or the sound of a Skeleton firing arrows at you. Though Minecraft’s combat system isn’t perfect and can be frustrating at times, it makes little difference to the overall quality of the game.
Minecraft is a satisfying game that rewards players’ imaginations. Unlike its PC counterpart, there is currently no end to this edition of the game. Like many of my favorite games, it’s easy to play Minecraft for hours on end, totally immersed in its world. Being able to explore and create with up to 8 friends at a time using local split screen and Xbox Live will add countless hours of replay value. Though Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is one of the more pricey Xbox Live Arcade titles at 1600 Microsoft Points ($19.99 USD), it is one of the best.