Thursday, 21 March 2013

There's no witchcraft in mining!

Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition

I know, I know. Minecraft is a PC thing and I should have played it there first. Apart from been shown the game by a friend the first year it appeared (and not understanding ANYTHING), I finally jumped in on the experience with the Xbox 360 Arcade version. I recall downloading the trial and trying it out for about 10 minutes. Not really "getting" the idea of the game, I quit the demo and played something else. The following week I started thinking about the game again and tried the trial version for the second time. This time the game just "clicked", I was addicted, learning to build things and understanding the game. I bought it straight after the demo stopped me after an hour of play. Since I have spent hours in Minecraft's simplistic, yet so addictive world.

Building a nice house for yourself is surprisingly fun.

Trying to explain why Minecraft is such a good game is actually a difficult task. It's a strange idea. Think of it, if you wish, as a cross between a sandbox game and a RPG. Or to put it in a real life situation; being a Neanderthal with absolutely nothing in a new and dangerous world, having to build everything from the ground up. Surviving, eating, exploring and mining for building materials. All built up in blocky, Lego-like, graphics.

If you throw away Minecraft because of it's looks  you are completely missing the point. This game is about 100% gameplay. There are no cutscenes, there is no story and there is no overall goal. Simply create and build your own world and story. It's represented simple to because it works best this way, it's easy to build and create when everything can be measured in blocks. It also allows modern hardware to make huge worlds and endless alerting of the environment, storing everything you change and add or remove.

If you have the patience, and hopefully many friends, you can build more ambitious things, like this castle!

Down below the surface there are many enemies and usually they scare the hell out of you!

The game auto generates almost everything. You set a few simply parameters for the world it should create and it makes a huge landscape. Full of huge, snowy mountains, dense forests, deep seas, rivers, lakes, and huge underground caves. Minecraft evolves a lot around these caves and what lies underneath the ground. Mining is key to getting resources to build more advanced tools, weapons and building items. You simply start somewhere random in the auto generated landscape, and your first goal is usually trying to build yourself a shelter for the night. Daytime lasts only so long, and on the ground it's a rather pleasant experience. With sheep, pigs and cows strolling around in flower fields and between trees. Night time, however, is a different story. Zombies, spiders, and primitive skeletons with bow and arrows start to emerge from the dark. Even worse are creeps, a sort of monster, that blow up when they get near you. They make a creepy, horrible hissing sound too.

These enemies disperse when morning rises again and the sun kills them, but once you realize you need to dig underground to find iron, gold diamonds and other valuable resources, you need to be aware that they are down there. You often come across huge, natural caves hiding them. The trick is to place torches in every dark corner to prevent monsters from spawning. It's scary as hell and Minecraft, with it's simple block based graphics, actually scares the shit out of you at times. You feel vulnerable down under ground in your mines, like you would in real life, and you feel even more so when you have found lots of valuable treasure yo want to bring to the surface and store in your ever expanding home. Your home, or multiple homes depending on your ambitious side, usually ends up being a palace when you get comfortable with the controls and building skills.

It may sound stupid, but there are times when the game actually looks pretty!

Mining is key to getting resources to make metal tools and weapons.

The guys behind this build of Minecraft have done an excellent job at converting the game to the Xbox 360, the controls are simple and the menus are easy to navigate. The worlds are smaller and the draw distance is pulled back compared to the PC version, but it doesn't really hamper the essential experience and enjoyment of Minecraft in any way. It's a great way for console gamers to try out what all the hype is about!

I really enjoy the drop-in/drop-out multiplayer splitscreen in this version. It lets up to four people explore together and this is where I really recommend multiplayer. Minecraft is almost essential to play multiplayer. There is so much fun in collaborating; be it mining, exploring or building stuff. Setting up a world and letting friends join the game; either online or sitting down beside you and splitting the screen, it's seamless and works fantastic. Simply jump in and out of the game seamlessly.

This is probably on the best games you can get on Xbox Arcade and is well worth it's quite high asking price. It's addictive, creative and offers a new scenario and new experiences each time you play. It may not have an overall goal, fancy storyline or shiny visuals, but what Minecraft has is hours of creative and addictive fun! Warmly recommended!