Arguably the biggest breakout hit of the last five years, the revolutionary sandbox title that is Minecraft has finally seen its long-awaited launch on the Xbox Live Arcade. The game has been showered with universal appraise since its inception in 2009, with many baffled due to its seemingly unappealing core.
However, Minecraft is certainly the epitome of a game that shouldn’t be judged based solely on looks. Within lies one of the most addictive and open-ended games ever created, its creative possibilities are literally endless. As of November 2011, 4 million copies had been sold on the PC, only eleven months after its beta release went on sale in December 2010.
Minecraft’s release on the Xbox 360 saw it demolish almost every existing XBLA sales record in a matter of days. Over 400,000 people were playing the game on the day of release – smashing the previous record of 100,000 on launch day set only weeks ago by Trials Evolution. It’s now seven days after its console launch and Minecraft has sold over a million copies and shows no sign of slowing.
Tutorial Mode – I’m a big believer that a detailed tutorial mode is just as important for any game as the story mode or multiplayer. The main focus of any new release should be to attract a new, larger player base, and with all of Minecraft’s intricacies a tutorial mode was nothing short of a necessity.
4J has literally left no stone un-mined in the creation of the learning mode – if you’re new to the franchise you can jump straight in and learn the basics, yet more particular ways of crafting (such as smelting) are taught and can be learned easily. I’ve had a break from the series for a while and it was great to be able to boot up the tutorial mode straight away and brush up on everything again.
Maintains the same gameplay that we know and love – 4J Studios are to be commended for their seamless port of a game that was entirely built for PC – many were certainly questioning whether they could pull it off. They’ve undoubtedly blown away the critics, however, implementing a control scheme that feels second nature and visuals that can hardly be differentiated from its PC sibling. More importantly, the game still maintains the addictive element that has contributed to its massive success – every new world of Minecraft that you create will be different from the last.
Simplified crafting system – Perhaps my favourite addition the Xbox port is the simplified crafting system. Its PC predecessor requires you to place objects and elements onto the crafting grid, and arrange them in a way that resembles the item you wish to create. Whilst this adds an element of mystery and depth to the game, Minecraft has been out on PC for well over two years and if players are stuck, a quick Google search will more than likely fix their problem.
The Xbox 360 crafting system features a 2×2 crafting box, and shows players what they are going to create and how they can go about creating it. Though some may argue that this simplification takes away from the overall experience of the game, it allows players to easily create the tools they need and again, is great for newcomers to the series.
Multiplayer – Whether you simply want to laugh at how shitty your friend’s world is or create a new experience with others (online or split-screen) 4J have you covered. This is the biggest distinction between the PC and 360 versions of the game; PC still doesn’t possess a dedicated multiplayer mode where the 360 port now boasts a system where up to eight players can effortlessly roam together online, and even supports up to four players via split-screen. It’s a lot of fun and it’s great to be able to play the game with friends from the comfort of your couch (or chair…or whatever else you weirdos sit on while you play).
Multiplayer accessibility – Along with the simplified crafting system, the multiplayer option is another of my favourite additions to the game. However, those without friends or recent players playing Minecraft are going to find it next to impossible to play online with other people – simply because there is no option to.
The lack of a public search feature stops those who are new to Xbox or don’t have any friends playing the game from being able to share the experience with someone else online, something that is hopefully addressed in future updates. On top of that, those with SD televisions are strangely unable to play local split-screen, only being available for those with high-definition TVs or monitors (god help your poor soul if you still actually play on an SD TV).
No creative mode – The noticeable absence of creative mode will certainly curb what could have been a huge, creative amount of community-generated worlds. Whilst ‘peaceful’ mode on the Xbox version basically lets the player roam around freely, it’s a far cry from the infinite blocks and resources, invincibility and flying that the creative mode on PC boasts. This is on the top of my wish list for future updates to the game, and should have been included from the get-go to facilitate replayability and provide further incentive for those who are unsure whether to purchase the game or not.
Sprinting – I’m not too fussed on this one, but definitely think it should have been included on launch. Surely it’s not difficult to program the player to sprint, regardless though I’m positive this will be coming at a later date.