Odds are you've probably heard of Minecraft. If you haven't, where have you been since 2009? It's the game that propelled Mojang from unknown indie status to a powerhouse in the gaming scene. After making its jump to the console via the Xbox Live Marketplace, how does 4J Studio's port turn out?
For starters, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition plays like Minecraft. It even has the somewhat steep learning curve we experienced in the original; however, the crafting is made easier by showing blueprints of every item you can make and letting you choose from those. It's so true to the Minecraft ways that the user interface sucks. The inventory is the same grid-like layout as on the PC, which is great for a mouse but annoying and sometimes hard to navigate with a controller. The controls are very fluid with the exception of "A" being the default jump option and RS being the default look option, making it difficult to maneuver whilst swimming.
Houses remain a valuable source of protection against the Creepers that hiss in the night.
The gameplay compares favorably to its mouse-and-keyboard-based cousin. You still spawn in a randomly generated world, but unlike the PC version's never-ending landscape, the Xbox version's world is only 1024x1024 blocks. Even though you spawn with a map this time around, the goal is the same: survive until you thrive. Mobs come out at night, try to kill you, and destroy your entire house, but you can fight them off and collect the loot they drop or even venture through a dungeon to gather rarer goodies the skeletons try to hide from you. Maybe you're a subtle tyrant who just wants a castle. Throw the difficulty on peaceful mode so you can focus all your energies on finishing Fort Buttsworth. It is truly the core Minecraft experience.
Notice I said core experience and not the entire experience. If you are an avid Minecraft player, you will notice one thing almost instantly: it's not the newest version of the game. In fact, it's not even the 1.0 patch that officially "released" Minecraft back in 2011, nor the huge 1.7 "Adventure Update" version. Some major differences include no hunger bar, no stacking of certain items, and no creative mode. Although the game is still very fun without these alterations (I actually prefer it like this since I started playing the PC version at this stage), for around the same price you can buy the PC version pre-loaded with all the absent content. Mojang has said they will release updates, but that statement may prove fruitless given Microsoft's tight restrictions on substantial patches.
"Not Notch" and friends showing off the standard skins.
Since it's addition, multiplayer has been a huge component of the Minecraft community. While you won't see 100-plus people servers, the magic of building with others has been captured in this port. You can host two-player split-screen sessions (four if you are gaming with an HDTV) or eight-player online free-for-alls. 4J Studios teased PC to console cross-platform play, but it, much like the announced content updates, has no release date yet.
Every game defaults to online upon creating or loading a save, so it's easy to join another session. In fact, you must make a conscious effort not to. Multiplayer is single-player in essence, just amplified by your friends or possibe griefers. Funny enough, there are no console commands on the console version. That means no more /give 264 100.
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is a suitable way to experience Mojang's indie hit. However, this version shares the same problem affecting it's PC counterpart. The game is only as fun as you make it. The Xbox 360 port also comes at a steep price point for an Arcade title (1600 Microsoft Points). Despite the flaws, Minecraft's embrace of freedom and cooperative support make for a convincing recommendation to anyone digging for a non-linear adventure.
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: 4J Studios / Mojang
Release Date: May 9, 2012
Number of Players: 1-8 (Cooperative)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed)