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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition review

Minecraft. Quite possibly the biggest addiction for any gamer that has tried it, and the biggest enigma for those who've never laid their hands on it. Often described as the digital form of Lego, Minecraft lets players unleash their creative side. But honestly it's so much more than that. It's also a game about survival. Though if there is anything that we've learned from Minecraft from letting everyone in the office try their hand at it, it's that the game is completely different to each one. Often imitated, you could find tons of Minecraft clones on the Xbox Live Indie channel, and while they tried to capture the essence of Minecraft, they ultimately never had what Minecraft has.

The basic gist of Minecraft is simple in theory. You start out alone, on a giant piece of land, with nothing but your bare hands. After you punch down some trees and collect wood, you can create your first workbench. After that, a whole world of creations is available to you. From various tools such as axes to chop down trees faster, to swords for defending yourself from the horrific beasts that come out at night, to various baked goods to sustain yourself, the world is completely open to build, craft and do pretty much whatever your heart desires.

The 360 version doesn't include the Creative mode which gives players unlimited amounts of blocks to unleash their creativity, but instead just focuses on the Adventure or Survival mode.

What really matters is, how does Minecraft play with an Xbox 360 controller. Fantastic actually. It's definitely something that you have to get used to initially, but give yourself a good 30 minutes of gameplay time, and you'll be building and crafting in no time at all. The Left and Right Trigger are relegated to both placing and destroying blocks respectively. The Y button gives you instant access to your inventory and the X button opens up your crafting menu.

So how does crafting work exactly? In the PC version, you either had to have an amazing memory, or have the Minecraft Wiki page open at all times. This was because crafting involved placing specific blocks and items in a given pattern, which resulted in an item. A stick with two stones above it made a stone sword, while sticks with stone on the side made an ax.

Thankfully this feature was completely streamlined on the 360. Instead of having to remember various recipes for crafting, you're instead given them all right away from the get go. Having a crafting table out will easily grant you access to a complete list of everything that's craftable, without the need to ever remember the insane amounts of recipes off the top of your head.

Minecraft is infinitely more fun with friends, and thankfully the 360 version lets you and three other friends play together on one screen, or up to eight people online. This is really where Minecraft shines. It's also much easier to connect to your friends than it is on the PC/Mac version, since you can simply connect to any friend currently playing, or invite other players to join your game.

This isn't the same Minecraft that's available to PC owners however. The 360 version is currently running the Beta 1.6.6 patch, whereas the PC version is currently running the 1.8.1 patch. That means if you were excited to go toe to toe with an Enderman, be able to block with your weapon, or enchant various items, you're out of luck, at least for now. Though it's not a 100% sure whether the game will be patched up to match where the PC version (with Microsoft's weird way of patching games), if the team over at 4J hopes to continue the game's popularity, they'll hopefully think of a way to bring it up to speed.

If you're a fan of Minecraft, or you were craving to play the game on a console, this purchase is an absolute no brainer. The transition to console and controller based gameplay is seamless. It is one of the most expensive XBLA games to date. At 1600 MSP, it could be a tough sell for those that have absolutely no idea what Minecraft is (is that even possible?), or have complete disregard for the game, but the rest are already readying their wallets, and their 360's for the block building craze.


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