Minecraft Review (XBLA)

It has been a while, I’ll be honest. Despite my past championing of the game, I haven’t opened Minecraft in months and haven’t actually sat and played it since Christmas. There are a number of things that have caused this, such as not knowing the game inside out like I once did due to an influx of new features and moving on to other games, but it’s mostly because I burnt out. I spent a year and a half playing the game without really taking much time away from it so I just had to move on for a while. It lasted much, much longer than any other game I have ever played.

It’s still there, though, sitting on my start bar; the only game to have ever earned a quick launch shortcut. I’ve always intended to go back, too. Notch’s time sink has swallowed hundreds of hours of my time already, so when I found myself being given Minecraft XBLA I realised it was finally time. When the opening splash screens appeared on my TV – a blocky version of the Microsoft Game Studios logo followed by Mojang’s own – I felt goosebumps run down my back, and when the main menu loaded? I smiled. It just looks like Minecraft’s menu, but a bit different – a few more options, perhaps, but it’s Minecraft right down to the entertaining splash message over the logo.

[drop]After the initial shock, I played the tutorial. Yes, there is a built in tutorial and it will work wonders for newcomers. It’s one of the better tutorials I’ve played in a game, dropping the player into a pre-made world with on-screen pop-ups to tell the player what to do and introduce them to the mechanics of the game and controls. You’re limited to a little grove with a couple of chests next to lakes with boats and fishing rods that spawn pop-ups to ask if you want instructions on how to use them or not. There’s a half built wooden shack that you’re tasked with fixing up, complete with windows and a door. It’s a great introduction and even served to introduce me to the controls and the new crafting system effectively.

The vague shape you had to make when crafting items in the PC version was a feature I liked, mostly due to it requiring more know-how than just ‘get these, press a button’, you had to know what to do with them. In this version, you just collect the things you need, open the crafting window and select what you want to craft from the menu. In fact, you can go to a workbench and it’ll show you every single thing that can be crafted in the game, exactly what you need to craft them and let you know what you’re missing. At first I found this distasteful, but then realised that I had, in fact, looked everything up on the wiki or seen it in Youtube videos when I was first playing the game and promptly shut up.

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The inventory is brought up with a press of the Y button and uses a mouse cursor that’s controlled by the left analogue stick to select and move things around. This is horrible, but you can also use the d-pad to jump the cursor between boxes, which is infinitely easier to control. Other than that, the inventory is the same, minus the crafting area (which is opened by pressing the X button).

Minecraft XBLA is Beta 1.6 in all its glory. The features, the quirks and the bugs are all here, along with a couple of new bugs that I’ve noticed. There was a rather strange malfunction with a furnace which duplicated a fish when I was cooking it that corrected itself somehow and another where water did not disappear after I removed a water source that, again, corrected itself a few seconds later. There’s also the infamous Minecraft lighting error which consists of a small area of a few blocks or so that are completely dark, though it fixed itself after I moved a few blocks around.

[drop2]Graphically the game looks like Minecraft; it doesn’t look great until you play the game and know all about it. Then the mountains gain a kind of majesty and staring into the dark of a cave evokes an oppressive feeling of dread that defies the simple make-up of the game itself. It performs admirably at what is definitely an equivalent to far view distance. Sometimes, there can be a lag between placing a torch and the light spreading but it is momentary and very rare. It seems to be darker indoors than it should be, possibly a result of the use of smooth lighting which had a similar effect on the PC version of the game, too.

The controls are obviously the really major difference here. The biggest and most obvious are the analogue sticks; movement is analogue now, which is good, but aiming is also analogue, and that’s bad. You’ll probably have to tweak the sensitivity to suit your own preferences as the default seemed far too slow, but either way, placing blocks is a little awkward at times although it’s not enough of a problem to affect the game once you’ve played a while. The bumpers are used to scroll through the items in your active inventory, forcing me to rearrange how I organise them slightly in order to avoid unwittingly trying to destroy creepers with the diamonds I am so desperately trying to protect.

Pros:

  • The modified crafting system makes the game far more accessible.
  • Maintains exactly what makes Minecraft so addictive.
  • Tutorial smooths the learning curve considerably.
  • A near perfect port.
  • It’s Minecraft on a console!

Cons:

  • If you already have and play Minecraft it’s difficult to recommend.
  • Based on Minecraft 1.6 so it’s missing a lot of newer features and improvements of the PC version.
  • A few small bugs, though they aren’t really intrusive.

All in all, this is as faithful a conversion of Minecraft to console right down to the music – even the seeds work. It’s an older version so it’s missing a lot of the features of the latest PC version, but it’s very much the Minecraft I fell in love with all that time ago. If you’ve wanted to play all this time but had a PC that gave up when it came to actually running it or even if you’ve played the PC version but have always wanted to play it with a controller from your sofa, this is exactly what you want. I’ll post an update on the multiplayer once I’ve had chance to try it out properly but until then, this gets my blocky seal of approval.

Score: 9/10

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35 Comments

  1. I’m really looking forward to this, I have only played the pocket edition but got bored quickly!

  2. I was wondering, is it possible to have a bit on reviews like the release date and maybe a price?

    • It releases on Wednesday though I’m not sure of the price myself. Quick Googling turns up 1600 MSP.

      • Thanks! I know it’s easy to google but just think it would be good to have all the details of the game that’s being reviewed on the review page.

    • I’ve always asked for an info box in reviews but gave up asking as it never happened. Should include:
      Formats
      Price
      Release date
      Download or retail
      Trophies/achievements? (y/n)
      Developer
      Publisher

      Wouldn’t be too difficult to add but would answer a lot of questions in one small box.

      • I’m building something that will help in this area, sorry it’s not there yet but we do only have very limited resources for development.

      • Sorry didn’t mean that as a dig (if that’s the way it came across).
        I don’t see why it would take any kind of development cost though (excuse my ignorance) all you need to do is put a box in the review with that info in!

      • I agree completely. Trophies/achievements will always be there, so I don’t think that’s needed. As far as I know the only Playstation/360 games that don’t have to have achievements are mini’s, PS2 games (Not HD remakes) and PS1 classics. I

      • Well there’s quite a lot of exceptions to the trophies/achievements rules, especially with the recent swathe of re-releases. For example they’re doing a resistance triple pack but res1 will have no trophies.

      • I know what you mean. But all PS3 games after 2008 have to have trophies, and all for xbox have to (I don’t know a date). I still think the box is needed though, they have it in magazines.

      • Lol, you’re missing my point!

        Games are still getting (re)released without trophies, albeit games we’ve seen before. There’s still confusion so the box would help for such things as the resistance triple pack or any other re-releases of games that first came out in the days before mandatory trophies.

      • Oh! I see… If a game doesn’t have trophies, maybe they should specify? The number of titles that don’t have them is very low though.

      • Quite a lot of exceptions? I can only think of Resistance FOM which doesn’t even matter as TSA don’t need to review it. Maybe have something like ‘Achievements/Trophies (50/51)’ the extra 1 being a platinum trophy (if it has on). All for the others.

      • there are loads of games without trophies that are pre 2008, not just FOM.

      • Yes plenty of games don’t have trophies but we’re (or at least I am) talking about games that are coming out now. Resistance FOM came into this because it had a double/trilogy pack come out not so long ago and FOM remained without any trophies because they just bundled the games together. If you can find at least 10 reviews of PS3/360 games in the past 3 years without trophies I could understand the y/n idea but I still think the #/# would be a better system. There’s my case for no real reason :)

  3. Even though I play this a lot on my PC, I wouldn’t mind having this on my PS3.

  4. Never played this on anything and I just can’t see the appeal. It seems that I’m the one who’s the odd one out, though.

    • I’m the same, this really isn’t my type of game.

    • Same for me mate, sounds like the kind of game to me that just eats your life away, takes hours to construct anything. Never played it and I doubt I ever will, no disrespect to those that do though, I’m sure it’s right up some people’s street, just not mine!

  5. I dont understand why you would choose this over the PC version. Minecraft truly comes alive with the mods. Vanilla Minecraft can get boring quickly.

    • For the reasons I stated in the last paragraph. Plus, I don’t play with mods.

      • I know its just Minecraft runs on even the most low-end of PC’s. You need to use mods to get the most out of Minecraft. Tekkit for example is such an amazing mod )or compilation of mods) and adds a ridiculous amount to Minecraft all from an easy to download launcher from their website.

        http://www.technicpack.net/

        Try it out!

      • Minecraft is notoriously resource intensive and always has been. It’s gotten better than it was but it most certainly doesn’t run on the most low end of PCs.

        And I said I don’t play with mods, not that I don’t know how to. I’ve used some before now but I find that it’s just not worth it, I prefer vanilla.

      • Ive played it on low-end PC’s before no problem. Well you’re missing out on Tekkit, makes the game feel a whole lot bigger and dynamic.

  6. It’s all great as a review, except it doesn’t actually say what the game is about? It’s all about “well i’ve played on PC and it’s just like that”

  7. I haven’t played Minecraft, but bought points and renewed my XBL (set to expire today) in anticipation!

  8. So torn with this. I love Minecraft, but have neglected it over the last 6 or 7 months due to Uni and the servers I played on shutting down or changing sadly. I want to get back into this so badly and I reckon getting it for my Xbox may just do that. As said above though, it’s hard to justify it if you have the PC version. I’ll have to think about this. I have recently started playing it again on my own PC with a server I host, but it’s hard to host a server 24/7. That wouldn’t be a problem on the Xbox version.

  9. Nothing Beats the satisfaction of building a gaint fortress with your mates on this, dont expect it to last long on a public server though as someone will come along and knock a massive hole in it “to see whats inside”. Always wanted this on PSN so i could run a proper privte server that wouldnt make my laptop melt after an hour.

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