I never got around to playing Minecraft when it was released on PC last year. This was admittedly mainly due to the fact that my now eight year old computer would start crying uncontrollably whenever I proposed a trip to the third dimension, but truth be told, I also had my own reservations about the block building behemoth. In the past I've steered clear of time sink video games like World Of Warcraft and EVE online, not because I suspect that they're bad games, but because I know I'm very susceptible to that drip feed style of design - play for an hour, acquire a sexy new item, play for another hour.... oh s**t, it's morning and my heart has stopped working. Minecraft seemed to take this idea to the next level, at any moment in time you could be standing over a literal gold mine; all you had to do was dig downwards....
But needless to say, my curiosity won over me in the end and I decided to give the newly released Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition a whirl to see what I was missing. Unlike the PC original, the 360 edition comes with a rather sexy tutorial mode which allows Minecraft virgins the space to get to grips with the complex mechanics before sending them out into the big, bad world. Being a real man, I decided to pass on this mode and brave the wilds of the single player mode uneducated. After setting the difficulty to maximum, I dove headfirst into my own personal randomly generated world wherein I was immediately murdered by a giant spider. I laughed it off, just an unlucky spawn point; let's see where it spawns me ne..... The f*** is this?! It just keeps spawning me next to the giant spider! Is this the game? Did I just buy Die By Spider: The Video Game?
I can admit when I've been beaten. I exited out of my own personal hell and headed on down to tutorial town. There were no giant spiders waiting for me here, no judging eyes peering out from behind the trees, this was a world steeped in serenity. 'Gather materials and build a house', a tutorial window exclaimed playfully. I was only too happy to oblige. Following my unseen friend's advice, I started towards the nearest tree and tore it down with my bare hands (real man) to collect some wood. With the wood I crafted some planks, with the planks I crafted a workbench which opened up a tremendous amount of new options. From this point you can progress however you see fit, make yourself a wooden pickaxe and you can mine rock to further expand your crafting capabilities or should you desire it, build yourself a shack and live out your days watching cows from afar.
Now, armed with knowledge, I decided to take another stab at the single player. There were no spiders nibbling at my shins this time – luck was on my side. As I mentioned before, each time you start a new game in Minecraft, a map is randomly generated, so your world is exclusive to you. I simply cannot overstate just how pivotal this feature is to Minecraft's success as a game. Each time you start a new game you are starting a whole new adventure in an uncharted world full of spooky caves ripe for exploring and tall, snowy mountains that scream "Build a pair of square breasts on me." I didn’t hesitate in getting to work on my scale replica of the meth lab from Breaking Bad but after a few hours, I realised that wood simply would not suffice… It was time to mine.
In Minecraft, you spend as much time below ground as you do above, blindly digging downwards in search of gold, diamonds and other commodities. This may not sound very exciting to some, but I personally found Minecraft to be at it's most interesting below the soil line. Stumbling upon an underground cavern overflowing with lava never ceases to thrill simply because neither you nor anyone else had any reason to believe it would be there, it's genuine discovery. There is an ultimate goal in the game which involves building a portal to another world from rare materials found underground, but I failed to find any such materials on any of my expeditions.
Occasionally while poking around beneath Mother Earth’s undergarments, you will happen upon some of Minecraft’s more unfriendly residents. These come in the form of the aforementioned spiders, zombies, archer skeletons and f***in’ badass cactus dudes that get so excited when they see you that they explode. If you feel like a little combat is in order then you can craft yourself a sword and armor set and take the fight underground, just don’t expect to enjoy the combat cos it’s s**t.
Admittedly, the game can feel pretty aimless at times. After completing my meth lab, I moved onto the standard moat, bridge and castle that plague the online servers. You see the 360 edition, while still very enjoyable, is quite a ways behind the current pc version and so is lacking in many of the features that fans have become accustomed to, most notably ‘Create Mode’, a sandbox mode which gives players unlimited materials plus the ability to fly. We’ve all seen the Minecraft videos on Youtube showing off the awe inspiring gargantuan structures erected by some of the more, let’s say ‘dedicated’ fans, but these structures are simply not possible on the 360 - at least not until a Create Mode is added through updates.
One advantage 360 users have over pc though, is the ability to play the game split screen with up to four pals. There is a huge amount of fun to be had running amuck with your buddies, especially if said buddies are already familiar with the game – heck, you’ll be building castles, moats and bridges in half the time! Now I know what you’re thinking, “Hey PhantomTommy, what do I do if my three best friends have been arrested on drug charges?” Well shut your face pal because you can play this s**t on the internet too and finding a game is easy as selecting play online from the game’s menu screen.
Overall, Mincraft: Xbox 360 Edition is a fun little game, but one that leaves the player wanting more. It will eventually reach it’s full potential at which point we may be looking at one of the best games to ever grace the XBLA, but until then we will just have to make do with bridges… and the occasional castle.