We review the best selling indie game of all time as it makes its way onto the Xbox 360. Minecraft Xbox 360 is the console version of the amazing block building game from Notch and Mojang.
Most of you will have heard of Minecraft and a good few of you probably own the PC version of the game already. So why would you want to head over to the console version of the game when the PC version is already so good? We take a look under the covers of the Xbox 360 port of the game and reveal the good, the bad and the ugly.
Starting with the controls, the Xbox 360 port of Minecraft has adapted nicely. The Xbox boasts a pretty good controller with an abundance of buttons, levers and sticks. Minecraft was always a mouse and keyboard combination on the PC, there was no context menu or in-game shortcuts. The Xbox analogue sticks work well, providing the player with precision enough to place blocks and move freely around the world. Some might argue that the precision of block placing does suffer at distances greater than 3-4 blocks on the xbox but that's just being fussy.
What's nice about the Xbox version of Minecraft is the ease of use. Whatever you're doing, you'll always know which buttons to press because hints are given at the bottom of the screen. So for example if you've got your inventory open, you can use A to Take All, X to Take Half and B to Exit. You can also use the RT button to learn more about an item or block. It's this context sensitive hint system that makes learning Minecraft so much easier for new players. As a result, a lot of the new Minecraft players and especially the younger players will love Minecraft for this.
One the biggest overhauls for the Xbox port was the introduction of a new crafting system. Players need no knowledge about crafting combinations in order to create new items. You can browse through a collection of all items in the game and if you've got enough of the components you can go ahead and create the thing. There's no dependency on the minecraftwiki anymore!
The crafting system is fast and it's easy to browse through the list of things to create without getting overwhelmed. Each of the items is categorised into sections e.g. Structures, Tools and Weapons. Just browse through the list, pick the item you want and craft away.
Multiplayer and Split Screen
The game really shines when it comes to multiplayer. Players have the option to play split screen with several controllers on the same xbox (up to 4 players). This is great for family nights in or when you've got mates round.
The multiplayer option gives players the choice to host their own games with up to 8 players joining in. But there's one downside. Once the host quits the game, the world goes offline and those creations will be unavailable. Great for the host but not so good for those who joined.
Which version number is the Xbox version of the game?
You'll have to excuse us if you know nothing about Minecraft versions but they're oh so important on the PC. The Xbox version of Minecraft is comparable to Beta 1.6 on the PC. So judging by the version history you'll encounter everything from most mobs to the Nether, boats, armor, wepaons, TNT and trapdoors.
However, you'll not get any of the big 'Adventure Update' features that appeared later in Minecraft 1.8. They included an experience system, Endermen, Cave Spiders, Silverfish, NPC Villages, Ravines, Rivers, mountain biome, ocean biome, sprinting etc..
A nice tutorial
The PC version was missing a tutorial right from the beginning. But was that tutorial such a loss? We thought that exploring and discovering new things for yourself was one of the best parts of Minecraft in the early days? The Xbox version comes with its own tutorial and again this will be really good for new players as it gently guides you through the game. Maybe the days of discovering what Minecraft is all about are over and we're just being nostalgic?
Now for some of the downsides to the Xbox port
You'll be pleased to know that there aren't many of these but they're significant enough to stand out. The Xbox version does suffer from a kind of enclosed bubble effect. You can roam quite freely but you're going to run out of room sooner or later, in fact more sooner than later. The PC version of the game feels endless, those infinite worlds really are infinite. The Xbox doesn't have the ability to generate those same endless worlds and you'll soon find that the map is smaller than you think. This is made more obvious by the fact that you start the game with a map (which tracks areas you've explored already).
Another little bug bear is the endless repeats of the C418 music. It's good but it's not that good. When you're playing Skyrim you never get bored of the music because it's so deep and so well timed that it fits any situation. Minecraft is of course an indie game and you can't expect world class music compositions for an independent game, especially one through XBLA. Maybe it's time for C418 to bring something new to the game?
Down to the serious stuff, price! The Xbox version of Minecraft seems a little heavy on the price tag. $20 for a XBLA game is quite steep, in fact its f-ing vertical. However, the price tag comes with the promise of regular updates and loads of new features in the future. The split screen and multiplayer aspect does make the price seem fair but for a family game aimed at the younger generation, this ones going to sting a little.
In a nutshellThe good
The badWhat's missing
- Easy to pick up
- Still feels like traditional Minecraft
- Split screen multiplayer is awesome
- Fair number of features from the PC version
- Texture packs
- More biomes and more mobs
Overall Minecraft for the Xbox 360 is a great port, certainly way ahead of the Pocket Edition. It's no where near as good as the PC version and probably never will be. It's perfect for new Minecraft players and definitely good for younger players or family nights in. But if you're a Minecraft veteran and you loved the PC version since the early Alpha/Beta days then you'll probably want to think twice.Score: 8/10