You must’ve been living under a rock these past three years if you haven’t heard of Minecraft. An indie phenomenon created by Marcus “Notch” Persson and now his company, Mojang, Minecraft is an open world, create anything you want sandbox video game, and it’s because of this freedom that it has gained critical acclaim and comercial success. Originally released on PC, Minecraft has grown throughout these years, and now it is ready to debut on the Xbox 360. But the question on everyone’s mind is, is this version better, worse or the same as the PC version?
Truth is, it’s a little more complicated than that. Minecraft on the Xbox 360 is a stripped down version of the original, but while it is missing certain components, mostly those added in the recent updates to the PC version, it still has enough content to please newcomers and veterans alike. The game starts out the same way as the PC version. You’re dropped into a randomly generated world and left to your own devices. Calling Minecraft a game is doing it a disservice. It has no real goal or ending, it just entices you with its freedom and encourages you to let your imagination run wild.
The Xbox 360 edition is lacking the Creative Mode of the PC version, which is a sad loss for those who just want to create all day without the constant threats present in the Survival Mode, available in the 360 version. The Survival Mode is mostly the same in both versions, although the Xbox 360 version is designed to be more user friendly. Starting a game in the PC version was often daunting, since you’re dropped into the world without any indication of what you can or must do. In this version, you’re given the option to start with a tutorial, which aims to explain most of the systems at work in Minecraft: mining, crafting, inventory etc. And even after the tutorial is over, you still get tooltips in the top-right corner of the screen from time to time, indicating the use of items as you go about finding them. This is an extremely welcome feature, especially for newcomers who might be scared off by Minecraft‘s openness.
Another improvement is the crafting system, especially the handling of recipes. In the original version, you had to combine the materials and figure out for yourself what each combination created. That, or you could go online and open a wiki explaining it to you. Here, the crafting menu lays out all the materials you need for each creating, even giving you a small description of each item. When you’ve gathered all the materials needed, a new pickaxe or sword is just a button press away. Other than this, the Survival Mode remains true to the PC version, with that great sense of exploration largely intact.
Another improvement in this version is the online multiplayer. If you’ve played the PC version of Minecraft, you know what a hassle it was to just create a game and have your friends join in. Thanks to Xbox Live, this is now as easy as selecting the option from the main menu. Here you have the option of creating an online game and have your friends join in by just selecting your name from their friends list and jumping in. There’s also a split-screen co-op mode, where up to four players can play on the same TV screen. Both these multiplayer offerings make the game infinitely more joyous to play, as being able to create vast villages, castles, monuments is much more fun with a couple of friends along for the ride.
Although the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft adds a lot to help newcomers ease into it, veterans might find themselves disappointed by the lack of other features. Like stated above, many of the lastest additions to the PC version are absent here, like hunger, sprinting, jungle biomes and many others. And although the crafting system is vastly improved, the way the cursor moves around in the screen is finicky, and feels weird on a gamepad. It’s something some will have to get used to. Also, it’s worth noting that because of Microsoft’s strict online rules, mods will probably never see the light of day in this release.
Even with these issues, Minecraft on 360 is the game many of you know and love. With a streamlined interface and a better online component, Minecraft has succeeded in expanding its player base beyond the PC realm. If your looking for a fun game, devoid of rules and only limited by your imagination, Minecraft is the game to play.
Thanks to Microsoft and Edelman for providing a copy for review.