GAME NAME: Minecraft
DEVELOPER(S): Mojang/4J Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
RELEASE DATE(S): 9 May 2012
Minecraft is one of the best received indie titles to release on the PC, making its creator Notch a whole lot of money. If the early sales reports for the long-awaited Xbox version are any indication, the console release has stuffed a few more wads of money into his swimming pool full of cash. Not bad for a game that hinges on the ability to punch the crap out of trees.
For the uninitiated, Minecraft is a randomly-generated world where players are given a few simple skills, some basic recipes and the freedom to do whatever they want to with them. There is no real story, except the ones that you make yourself. There are also no real goals but the ones you set and this is a welcome change to the usually confined structure of console titles. Projects are limited only by your imagination but it is a fairly certain bet that most will start off either digging a hole in the side of a cliff or building a small square home on the nearest flat piece of land only to be blown to bits by a creeper on the first evening.
But perseverance and a few respawns will lead to a realisation. Minecraft may come across like digital LEGO smeared into the cracks of some outdated graphics on first glance but there is more depth to the game than you’d expect. The block-based graphics form part of the game’s charm and the random worlds provide a wealth of possibility and danger. Punching trees leads to wood. Wood leads to tools and tools lead to weapons, armour, food, mechanical projects and, eventually, a scale model replica of the Mines of Moria, if that’s your thing.
Simple beginnings are allowed to lead to massive undertakings, both literally and figuratively. Minecraft is playable both online and offline, with each providing markedly different experiences. Online players can collaborate on large-scale mines and construction projects, though unfortunately other players cannot access a specific world unless the host is online. Offline players can explore and create in a quiet environment (depending on difficulty setting) that can be something akin to tending a Zen garden. If you have an HD TV then Minecraft also offers split-screen couch co-op, an option that will suck away hours of your collective time without worrying about how much work you need to do the next day.
There are some variations from the PC version of the game. The world is smaller but this might be expanded in updates for the game (hopefully). There are fewer crafting recipes available to Xbox gamers and the in-game worlds are smaller, while still being pretty huge. Some in-game items have not been provided but given the way that Notch updates the PC version, Minecraft 360 will probably be getting extra content soon enough. The control method switch from mouse and keyboard to gamepad has been well done, with nary a hitch to controlling Steve (your playable character) in sight.
The simple gameplay, almost laughable visuals (which you will quickly grow to love) and incessant assault by creepers, skeletal archers and square pigs (that thing was out for our blood, promise) makes Minecraft 360 just as compelling as its PC counterpart. It may not look like it but Minecraft is perhaps the best XBLA title you will play in 2012 and – unless something phenomenal comes along next year – will probably hold that title for at least 2013 as well. You kinda owe it to yourself, and everyone else playing this online, to get Minecraft (and about a week with nothing else planned) now.