Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition Review
Microsoft is on to a winner. Whatever deal brokered Minecraft’s appearance on Xbox 360 was instantly heralded a success – it’s already a recognised name and if XNA clone Fortresscraft proves anything, there’s a demand for a console version of Minecraft too. Let the money roll in.
But it’s kind of a double-edged sword. Minecraft – on PC – is a game that relies heavily on outside sources. Wikis, forums and knowledgeable friends are all important tools for learning how to play the game.
So if that immediate connection has been severed, will Minecraft on Xbox 360 suffer, or have compromises been made in order to fit Mojang’s sandbox game into a totally different audience?
Unfortunately the answer isn’t a clear one.
Thankfully the gameplay has been left unchanged. You’ll start a new game by dropping into a randomly generated world, and from there it’s up to you to survive.
You’ll need to learn quickly though, because when night falls Minecraft’s varied beasts will appear – and they won’t care that you haven’t got the means to protect yourself.
For those not familiar with Minecraft, here’s a quick rundown. The only objectives are personal ones; instead you’re given a procedurally created world to exist in. You’ll need shelter from the monsters that spawn, but beyond that you’re free to roam.
Kill a pig, get a porkchop. If only it was that easy.
It’s a sandbox game in its truest form, where you can mine the landscape and use its materials for your benefit: from crafting a house of wood to creating tools or equipment to make your life easier.
It’s a game that focuses on your desire to explore, your need to survive and your aptitude to create. Grand castles, elaborate towers or complex railway systems – all possible should you want to build it.
With the inclusion of a step-by-step tutorial level and numerous tooltips each time you interact with a new material, menu or object, there is enough assistance to ease newcomers to Minecraft into the mechanics of its harsh world.
Menus have been adapted, too, and are now in keeping with the controller led gameplay. Crafting, for example, no longer requires placing materials into a 3×3 grid to create items.
Instead a set of tabbed categories can be opened, letting you pick and choose the tools or objects you want to craft. It’s a much simpler system than the PC original, and well suited to Xbox 360.
But more than this, it’s important because it lets you see exactly what you can build from the start, providing a subtle nudge of what step to take next. There’s no longer a need to suffer infuriating trial-and-error or trawl Wikis to learn the items you can create: it’s all here, in icon form.
There’s different zones, from snowy tundra to expansive deserts.
It’s not perfect, however: there are still issues with direction. Sure, you’ll be able to create your own mud hut and survive the night, but what about after that?
The tooltips and menus can provide only so much information, and even that relies heavily on actually interacting with the necessary parts. In other words, there’s still a necessary element of having to delve into those Wikis for extra info.
This doesn’t spoil what Minecraft does well, however. Okay, so there’s an element of research needed for those who really want to explore Minecraft’s limits, but the sense of wonder is still as strong as ever.
Your mind will wander. Setting out on one task will undoubtedly shift after discovering an intriguing cave entrance or spotting some valuable coal on the side of a tall cliff face.
Then there’s the creation aspect too, which is limited only by your imagination. Add in the one-upmanship that comes from the multiplayer too and you’ll have hours of creation available.
All this in a port that hasn’t lost anything in the transfer: barring slower camera control, this plays just like the Minecraft version. The charming blocky visuals return, though admittedly it is like playing on an older PC with the time it takes to render blocks off in the distance.
Meet the Creeper. If he gets this close, you’ll likely cack your pants.
There are a couple of concessions in the version number too. Equivalent to pre-Adventure Update Minecraft v1.6.6, the Xbox 360 version doesn’t have pistons, villages, NPCs, cats, fortresses, The End, enchantable equipment… quite a lot, in fact.
In a weird way this is preferable to the complex PC version, however, that now includes managing food to stay alive and other systems to enhance the overall experience. The current version is a better way to ease in the console crowd.
Just like the PC version though, this isn’t the finish line for Minecraft on Xbox 360. Later patches are expected, bringing with it the content already seen on PC and maybe even some new elements exclusive to the 360.
Since there’s redstone wiring (to create mechanics) and the Nether (a parallel, Hell-like world) in the current version, there’s enough to sink your teeth into before the more exciting elements of Minecraft begin to get patched in.
While there could be more done to highlight the finer points of Minecraft – maybe an in-game wiki system, for example – it’s hard to fault this as a port of one of PC gaming’s most important games in the last few years.
The menu isn’t perfect, but it’s the best solution for 360 gamers.
Practiced Minecrafters will find the Xbox 360 version intuitive to play, which also means that element of inquisitive wonder won’t be tarnished for those playing Minecraft for the very first time.
Minecraft for Xbox 360 won’t convert those not already intrigued by its freeform nature of gameplay and nor does it do quite enough to educate newbies – but that doesn’t stop it being a fantastic achievement and the epitome of sandbox gaming.