Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition Review

I’m late to the Minecraft party. Not only did the Xbox 360 Edition hit almost a month ago, but the original version on the PC was released three years ago. However I only picked up a copy of the Xbox game a few days ago (Well, not picked up, since Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition has found its home on the Xbox Live Arcade). Since I’m now hooked, here’s a (late) review of the Xbox 360 Edition.

Unless you’ve been living in assorted caves over the past three years, then you’ll most likely know of the basic premise of Minecraft. You’re plunged into a (completely random, and completely unique) world, and you have to find the resources to make weapons, tools and a shelter so you can protect yourself at night from the monsters that come out when the sun goes down. There’s a lot more to Minecraft, but that’s the core 0f the game, and it’s a concept that has survived its transition to the Xbox (as well as the trademark blocky graphics and sound effects).

Once you’ve made it through the first night (whether that’s surviving the night, sleeping through the night or in my case, being woken up by monsters and spending the night on a sand dune fighting skeletons and regretting going to sleep too early), then Minecraft gets a lot easier, and more fun. You’re free to expand your house, mine down into the deepest recesses of the world to find precious ores, lava and more monsters, build a Nether portal (more on that later), go monster-hunting at night (very, very foolish, and very, very fun), go base-jumping (not a good idea) or skip happily through the wilderness picking flowers.

And of course, if you get a bit lonely mining down in the dark, there’s always the option of multiplayer. You can open up your world to up to 8 friends via Xbox Live, visit theirs or make a world together. I started off with the third option, honing my crafting skills and happily accepting spare tools from my infinitely better friend. Making a world together is goddamn fun, and you get twice as much done (when I wasn’t cowering in the house from zombies while my friend fought off monsters and mined obsidian). Mojang have really thought about the multiplayer, and it elevates Minecraft from an excellent game to an outstanding game.

It’s not quite up to date with the PC version – the Xbox 360 Edition is said to resemble PC Minecraft from about a year ago. Because of this, worlds are fairly small, you can’t play the ‘final boss’ and certain items, like chickens, have yet to reach the console counterpart. As someone who started out with the Xbox version, it’s not a huge deal for me, and updates that will bring the Xbox 360 Edition up to date with the PC version are promised soon enough. There is an awful lot you can do, however.

There’s also the option of building a ‘Nether portal’. Once you’ve acquired ten blocks of obsidian (which is pretty hard – it took me and my friend two hours of solid mining (broken up by monster hunting, house expansions and falling down holes that we didn’t know where there until one of us fell down one and took considerable fall damage), and a ‘flint and steel’, you can build a portal, and travel to the Nether. The Nether is basically hell, where ‘zombie pigmen’ and floating cloud monsters dwell the dark, lava-coated landscape. Be warned, though, it’s very, very dangerous. Even on ‘Easy Mode’, after a few minutes of mining some rare metals and discovering lava traps, an exploding cloud monster floated towards us and we fled through the portal back to the normal world.

One brand new feature is tutorials. On the PC version, users started the game, then became bewildered by the fact that Minecraft didn’t give them any clues as to how you make certain things, then opened another tab and logged on to Minecraft Wiki to find out the combinations to make a cookie. On the Xbox version however, things are a lot easier. You see a description of an object when you point at it (so you know what it makes when you punch/chop it to little pieces and what it actually does when you have the block), and there’s a handy tutorial when you first enter the game, so life is a lot easier for beginners.

The crafting system has been simplified, too. The 3×3 crafting grid of the PC version has been abandoned in favour of a much simpler crafting system: you scroll through the list of objects that can be made, and if you have the materials to build something (e.g. a diamond sword), then one press of the ‘A’ button will make that object for you. It means that you not only don’t have to bother with putting objects in exactly the right square to make something – you can also make objects you didn’t know you even had the ingredients for.

Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition is a game that needs to be judged on its own merits. It’s been unfairly compared to the PC version, which is three years older, but as a game that stands on its own, Xbox 360 Edition is a practically flawless game. All it needs is a few updates and then it’ll be towering over the PC version. A fully online mode where you can dive into other people’s servers would be much appreciated, but then you can’t have everything, can you?