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.
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.
- 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!
- 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.