Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition
Developer: Mojang/4J Studios
Price: $20
Platform: Xbox 360

As you all know from my previous article you can check over here, I loved Minecraft. As the good man I am though, I went through the Xbox version fresh, and it’s actually a pretty good port. If you’ve been living under a rock the last few years then Minecraft is basically a world building game. You dig for materials to build any sort of dream house you’ve wanted such as recreating the League of Doom or building your dream evil scientist lair in a volcano. It’s advertised as an adventure /survival game, but it’s really not; the focus is on gathering materials to build stuff and repeating the formula.

I’m going to kick this off with saying that as much as I felt the game was incredibly over-hyped, I see its appeal. I dropped 10+ hours on this playing split-screen with my younger brother and it’s good fun, but they’re basically selling you the alpha beta. It’s actually funny that this isn’t complete on release considering the PC version wasn’t either. Nonetheless, go download the trial for this and if you really like it go spend the extra $7 on the PC version; it really is the best version. If you’ve got some sort of reject PC that can’t handle it, then you have my blessings to buy the 360 version. There’s also a weird requirement that to play split-screen you NEED an HD television set. If you’re buying it to play co-op like I know many of you are then you need to realize this before you waste $20. The game is also missing tons of content from the PC; to compare, the 360 version is basically everything up to the Halloween update (Nether) with a few random newer additions such as dogs. There’s no Endermen, no Enderdragon/”story”, nothing from the Adventure Update, the world is limited (basically the size to fill the map up) and most importantly there are no mods. Mojang and Microsoft have commented that the 360 version is going to be updated with everything in due time and that it’s all going to be free, but we’ll see how that turns out. As of now they technically released the alpha beta version of the game and you’re just going to have to deal.

So as you’d expect this version comes with some changes. First of all there’s an extensive tutorial that I highly recommend new players go through. You’ll spend a good half hour going through the process of crafting, mining, learning the controls, using furnaces, and understanding how the new menus work. The developers were even nice enough to build you a nice town with a castle you can use if you don’t feel like starting up a random world. The inventory also has a cursor you can move around with the analog stick (or you can roll with the d-pad if that’s your thing) that works well enough, but it just feels a bit sticky to me. I would’ve liked to see two separate sensitivity options, one for the inventory cursor and another for your character.

Now the thing I absolutely love is the new crafting interface. The menu is split between tabs that have the recipes for each item you can build even if you don’t have the ingredients. It’s a helpful design that helps you show what you can build, what you need to build it, and what function it serves. Everything is also neatly kept separate with all tools such as swords, axes, or shovels in the ‘tools’ tab, armor in its own tab, a food tab, and more. It’s as easy as just going to the tool tab when you want to craft a sword, going over to the sword icon, scrolling down the various types of swords (wood, stone, iron), and hitting craft. You won’t need to clumsily drag around items, split them apart, repack them, split them again, and so forth that made crafting on the PC a bit of a drag; now if you have the ingredients in your inventory it simply crafts it with a helpful notification showing you when you’re missing something. Sure, it takes away the “exploration” of discovering what can be crafted together, but fuck that. We all know that everyone spent most of their time playing with the Minecraft wiki open on the crafting page because nobody will memorize all the insane recipes. It also gets rid of the pain of having to drag around everything because I’m incredibly lazy. I welcome this change and hope Jeb adds an option to enable it on the PC.

Ok, so when you start up your world you’ll be able to set your world to online or offline. This basically means that if you set it to online, anyone can just up and join your world. For some reason though I haven’t been able to see any games to join at all since release and I know I’m not the only one with that issue since I’ve asked around. The 360 Edition doesn’t have the full blank worlds that the PC version has so you won’t be able to sit around building Deathstars with people. It’s just you and other guys in your world. The 360 actually implements this quite well with a simple invite/join game system. This is all fine and dandy, but those people can mess with your stuff so I highly recommend playing privately and only inviting people you know. Some people out there are dicks and just want to grief players, even your friends are. Hey Robby, you’re a dick. That glass took ages to forge and now my underwater house is flooded. The game also sports 4 player split-screen [ON HD TELEVISIONS ONLY] and it work surprisingly well. On a big enough TV (I’m rolling on a 46″) everything is still easy to see, when split apart for multiple local players, considering all the text and icons are small and pixilated.

Oh another thing to mention, there are either different skins you can use, the catch is that they’re multiplayer only. When you play with another person your character will be dressed in one of the either different skins depending on what player number you are, this is to help differentiate everyone in the room. Mojang has mentioned that they’re working to bring actual skins to the game in future updates.

The graphics are the same as ever, if anything they look worse if you play on an HD TV so you can see just how lazy the work is, but whatever I guess. The music is the same soothing instrumental which actually feels a lot better to listen to with my speakers than on my computer for some reason.

The Final Word
Basically if your computer is such garbage that it can’t run Minecraft buy this, but please try out the demo and think hard if you want to drop $20 on a game that’s all about building stuff; I mean think REALLY hard. Another reminder, for some reason if you don’t have an HD television set you CAN’T play split-screen. Personally, I’m not fond of the fact that they’re charging people $20 for what basically cost PC players $13 and it still has less content, but anyone who missed out on the Minecraft phenomenon is probably going to pick it up anyway since it is the best block building game on XBLA around. What, are you seriously going to go buy FortressCraft?

- MonsterVine Rating: 3 out of 5 – Average