Wednesday saw the release of Minecraft on XBLA. I won’t waste too much time by explaining and examining every aspect of what Minecraft is because it’s been around for some time now and chances are that you already know the game fairly well. Instead I’d like to focus on how well it has been transferred to the console and what’s different.
For those of you that have been living under a rock and are unfamiliar with Minecraft, it is a sandbox voxel-based survival/creative game from Swedish developer Mojang. The aim of the game, if there is one, is to collect various resources in a randomly generated world and then create objects in order to survive. The world is fairly safe during the day but at night the mobs come out to play which adds a element of jeopardy when exploring and creating your world.
The XBLA release is a port, by developer 4J Studios, of an old build of Minecraft, 1.6.6 to be exact, therefore if you’ve been using Minecraft for a while it will feel familiar. As a result of working from this older build there are a few elements missing from the final PC release of Minecraft such as jungle biomes, the booster glitch, and my personal favourite; pistons. The game is also missing game types like adventure mode and more disappointingly a creative mode as well as texture packs and custom skins. The XBLA version also generates maps at a much reduced size, 1000×1000 blocks. The previously announced Kinect support is also missing.
Despite some of these notable absences, there are several free updates forthcoming, something the developers had to fight for, as well as paid DLC on the horizon. Considering the rather large price tag that the game comes with I would like to think these free updates will be significant and address the parts of the game that are missing whilst the DLC will merely supplement.
Smoother Handling Than A Minecart
The switch from mouse and keyboard to Xbox controller is seamless and I found I adjusted to the new controls almost instantly. My only minor gripe was that there was no option to map keys (when will this just become standard practise?!) but there are three controller set up options as well as the ability to switch each to southpaw so most bases are covered. I have encountered a few bugs such as placed items disappearing and self-exploding-TNT but it just wouldn’t be Minecraft without the odd bug.
The game itself looks great with an overall crisp frame rate which did slow at times during multiplayer but could be a result of my lag. There are no texture packs as yet but the default textures are more reliable than the PC version which had occasional instances of missing block-textures. The game sounds great, it’s an older build so it’s the original sound effects rather than the final release ones, and the music is very tranquil which really adds to the experience and helps the hours fly by. The rain is still a little too loud and gives me an instant headache but thats my only complaint.
Fun With Friends
The most important element of this game is multiplayer, without it you’re just some guy wandering around alone digging the odd hole, and the multiplayer shines. Every world you create can be multiplayer, whether you started it offline and by yourself or not, this is a fantastic addition to the game and it works well. Having eight players in one game is great and doesn’t cause any slow down; I did get the odd bit of lag but I chalk it up to my awful internet speeds and not the game. Local splitscreen supports up to four players and it works very well, but be aware that only HD TV’s are supported when playing splitscreen!
Despite how well the multiplayer works there are three things missing that would have been nice to see: there are no dedicated servers, no way to share a world, and you cannot adjust a players edit privileges, but these are all things that could come from further updates. Ultimately though they’ve struck gold, or diamond, with the multiplayer and me and several friends have had hours of fun together (see our screenshots at the end of the review).
4J Studios have done a great job with the port, despite using an outdated version of the game, they have produced a great game and an XBLA classic, though there is plenty of room for improvement. There are significant pieces of the game missing and it’s a little expensive but if you’ve got friends online and you get in a world together you’ll end up having so much fun you’ll forget about what’s missing until it drops in the next update. Minecraft is out now so go create something… then blow it up!
While there are some notable features missing from the game it still remains as fun and playable as ever. The world is your oyster!
The pixel art graphics are classic and look good on the console. There are some occasional frame rate issues which may cause annoyances.
Good use of relaxing music which doesnt grate after a ten hour building session. Sound effects are used from the old build and are average.