Originally released on PC a couple years ago, Minecraft has finally made the jump to consoles; to the Xbox 360 more specifically. How has this leap affectected the game? Is it still a ceative paradise, or is it marred by console limitations?
When you load up your first game in Minecraft 360, you start with nothing but a map. The game doesn’t tell you what to do or where to go. It’s all up to you. You can start working on shelter, explore the landscape, go spelunking, or do whatever else you feel like.
Despite claims that Minecraft 360 is an entirely different beast, the game feels identical to older iterations of the PC version. The PC version currently has many more features, objects, and resources to work with, but Minecraft 360 is off to a great start. The sense of proportion and the feeling of “smallness” is just as epic on the Xbox 360 as it is on the PC. When you are in Minecraft, you initially feel quite small and helpless. However, as time progresses. As your dreams take shape in front of you, you start to feel significant. Early on in the game you almost feel like an invader, but as you build up and reshape the lands around you, you start to feel like it’s your world.
The overall gameplay in Minecraft is quite simple: set a goal, then do it. What makes this game great isn’t the gameplay itself, it’s the absolute freedom the game gives you. The sense of exploration and the addictive “just over the next hill” feeling are what truly makes this game shine. One feature that’s I think is a brilliant addition is the inclusion of difficulty settings. Playing on the three higher settings means that you have to deal with the Minecraft standard creepers, skeleton archers, zombies and the like (with varying degrees of difficulty). However, putting your game on Peaceful difficulty gets rid of all the enemies in the game. This means that if you just want to build without worry about taking cover at night, you can go crazy. It’s a phenomenal addition that really let’s you control how you want to play the game, especially since “Create” mode hasn’t yet been added to the 360 version.
To make things even better, the game allows for you to bring friends into your world (or vice versa). You can set up a server and play with up to 8 people. Even better, the game allows for players to bring in a couple of friends locally with 4-player splitscreen support. The game just gets better when played with friends. Getting several people to collaborate on building projects is phenomenally fun and is a great way to spend a game night with friends.
Xbox 360 vs. PC
Obviously, the question of how it differs from the PC version is going to come up. Frankly, they’re not all that much different. The biggest difference in the actual gameplay comes with the crafting. In the PC version, the crafting system is a whole different world of exploration. You have to have all the right ingredients arranged in just a certain way to make what you want. The Xbox 360 version simplifies this. Basically, you bring up the crafting menu and select and item to craft. The game will tell you exactly what you need for that item, and if/when you have the required ingredients in your inventory, you simply select the item and the game crafts it for you. I’m ok with both ways personally. The PC version makes crafting innovative and fun, but the Xbox 360 version makes it dead easy for non-gamers, and it saves quite a bit of time.
The other major difference between the two version is primarily the state of development each is in. The PC version has had access to version 1.8, the Adventure update, for quite some time. The Xbox 360 version isn’t quite that far along yet. There are a number of good things about it, but a number of “standard” features from the PC version aren’t in the 360 version just yet.
The last difference is mods. Now, Minecraft is currently one of the most modded games on the PC, and possibly one of the most modded games ever. In fact, the game is so modded that most PC players don’t even play “vanilla” Minecraft anymore. My brother plays with an industrial mod, my brother-in-law plays with a dozen mods or more, and a good friend of mine plays with some mapping mods, and anti-griefing mods. Long story short, the Xbox 360 version has no mods. Nor is it likely to ever have mods. That doesn’t make it a bad game, but it does decrease the value.
Content wise, Minecraft is one of the cleanest games out there. You can attack fellow players if you feel the desire, but there’s no blood. It’s roughly equivalent to hitting each other with foam swords. There’s also the issue of Zombies. For some, that won’t be a problem. For others, the idea of reanimated dead tissue is a bit much. Beyond that, the game is clean as a whistle provided you play with the right people. There are no voice overs, so there’s no swearing. There’s also no sexual content in the least. Even the beds are all twin sized so sleeping for the night is a 1950’s TV land experience. It’s great to see a game with such solid content.
Unfortunately, like every game, Minecraft 360 isn’t perfect. First, though 4-player splitscreen was added, the UI doesn’t adjust for multiple screens. Each player gets their own UI, but things are so small that reading certain things (like item names or descriptions) becomes a challenge. I tried playing with my wife (first time Minecraft user), but she just couldn’t get into it because she couldn’t tell what was what.
There’s also the issue of cost. Minecraft 360 is $20. That’s $5 – $10 more than most XBLA games. However, given the breadth of the game, and given that the PC version currently sits at $26.95, that’s not a bad price. The question is, are you the sort of person who will get bored when goals aren’t given to you, or are you the sort of person who will spend hundreds of hours building your 8-bit dream home?
Minecraft 360 is a terrific romp through the world of Minecraft. It brings the same sort of exploration and excitement as it’s older brother, and it allows you to bring friends along for the ride. Minecraft isn’t perfect, but for those who like an open world, there’s nothing better.
4J Studios provided HCG with a review copy of Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition.