My previous experiences with Minecraft consist of having played a trial that came with one of the Humble Indie Bundles not too long ago and from that I took quite a negative stance on whether or not Minecraft was all it was cracked up to be. Now after playing the Xbox 360 version of the game and giving it a bit more time and effort I can say I think I found what my previous experiences with the game were missing.
The first major difference between this version and the PC version is the addition of a tutorial, here you get an introduction to many of the games core mechanics and more importantly the crafting menus and the crafting table, a key set of tools in creating many of the materials and objects you will need to explore and create in this game. This means the game isn’t quite a daunting as I had previously found it and gave a steady introduction that didn’t take away all of the exploration this game still offers. Crafting items no longer requires you to guess what you need to make a particular item any more as the crafting menus have been altered to show the player how much of each material is needed to craft each item. Whenever you run into a new item/material for the first time the game will offer some information on what it can be put towards, this helps when planning out what you want to aim for when creating something as simple as a makeshift shelter to survive an onslaught of zombies and creepers, or whether you want to create massive structures that span an entire maps length. The tutorial gives the player the right amount of push to let them carry on to discover and build on their own.
The game becomes all the better when playing with others, having friends in the world, all building and aiming for one goal is an amazing thing with materials and items changing hands to help one another, survival of friends being important and everyone laughing and having a genuinely good time. The addition of split-screen means that connecting with other players is easier than ever, up to 8 players can play together with any combination of online and split-screen players.
Survival is the other big driving force that kept me playing for as long as I did this time around. Survival is a very good reason behind resource gathering and planning out what you need to do in between day and night cycles. The game has several different difficulty levels that will vary how regularly enemies appear at night-time and how much of a beating they can take. At the time of writing this isn’t really that well balanced with enemies spawning in huge groups waiting for you to exit your shelter. Zombies may burn in the sunlight, but other enemies will stick around. Creepers will ruin everything and will appear on a regular basis to ruin your fun. These problems are still apparent on easy mode, there is an even easier mode that turns enemies off, but that takes away an element of the game that can be fun if they just toned down the amount and maybe even varied how often they appear to balance the night game. This was one of the hurdles I had huge problems with in the PC version, especially when added to the fact I didn’t have any clue where to start in terms of finding materials and making weapons. This time around it isn’t so bad with the knowledge from the tutorial and the improved crafting menus I was able to create the necessary items to survive past a night and also still have the ability of vision. Night-time rolls around pretty quickly and finding what the necessary materials to make lights were was a huge problem in the PC version, the player shouldn’t ever need to visit an external website/wiki to find out key features of a game and that’s where the starting tutorial comes in handy, readying the player for when they want to create a new world of their own, whilst also having fun with the survival aspects of the game.
With all the additions that this version brings, there are some things from the current version of the PC Minecraft that aren’t featured in the Xbox 360 edition, this version bases itself on the 1.6 version of PC Minecraft meaning things like hunger and the questline don’t exist in this version but the ports developers, 4J Studios, have said that they may be able to bring more updates than is usually allowed on Xbox Live. Mods and skin editing may also be coming to the game in future updates.
The aesthetics of this game are very charming with basic animation being combined with the now iconic block pixel graphics that fits perfectly with the building mechanics. Draw distance can be a bit of an issue at times with something that looks like an interesting island in the distance suddenly turning into a fully populated piece of land as soon as you get closer to it. C418 provides some great music that provides a strange juxtaposition to the panic of the night-time and adds atmosphere to it all.
The Xbox 360 edition of Minecraft has definitely made a huge difference to the start game and made it easier to get at least a bit of a head start when it comes to preparing for the night-time where enemies still spawn on a far too regular basis. Exploration, creation and survival are all fun on your own, but plug in a few extra controllers and have an even better time mining and building with friends. It may not look like much looking in, but give it a chance and it may just suck you right in.
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is now available from the Xbox Live Arcade for 1600 Microsoft Points.