When I’m not playing Minecraft, I’m thinking about Minecraft. When I am playing Minecraft, I’m thinking about what to do next in Minecraft.
A review of Minecraft that is long overdue, the reason being that Minecraft is too damn time consuming and addictive. In fact being sat on an airplane and unable to play Minecraft is the reason I am writing this.
After three years of phenomenal growth Minecraft has won the hearts and minds of millions and the recent XBLA version has added another hefty million plus converts inside a fortnight of release. While the game is an older version when compared to current pc release it offers the core of Minecraft’s addictive gameplay and the simple, yet inspirational way it grabs your imagination.
The game has been redesigned for the console and the controls feel natural, the action flows smoothly as you find your way through the world. The crafting and inventory menus have also had an overhaul, the biggest impact being the way that components required for crafting items are obvious to you, rather than encouraging the player to experiment. It might sound like a cop out, but it works so well and as a newcomer to the Minecraft world it works for me. Here is a picture of my house as at three days ago, it has now changed of course.
Graphically the game is true to it’s clunky 8-bit style cubes, the impact may be far removed from the level of visuals in other titles, but they fire your imagination. Mountains, rolling valleys, caves, lakes, beaches all made from the same blocky mould, and all offering some exciting experiences. The real beauty in the environment does come from your imagination, I stood on top of a mountain watching the day and night cycle, enthralled by the cube clouds that were drifting by me. There may be texture packs available in the world for pc gamers, but even at this early stage I would proudly say I’m a purist and being true to the game’s origins suits the experience.
As far as open world games go, this is possibly one of the most valuable experiences I have ever had, some games give you the presence of freedom, but aspects of that freedom are often thinly veiled tasks that become mundane. Even when mining deep underground in search of a diamond vein Minecraft is still fresh and still surprising you. It constantly tickles your curiosity and at the end of a late night session breaking into a natural cave is the perfect recipe for another hour or two of spelunking. The freedom, your curiosity and the respect it gives your ability to create let’s you loose in ways no other games can, you’ll want to do everything all at the same time.
Just like playing the game it is too easy to go off on a tangent, by example one evening I strayed a little too far from my home and got lost in the world. With no map and having left most of my tools behind I was hamstrung in a really positive way, it would have been easier to set up somewhere else, but the knowledge of my little space pushed me on. It was an unexpected and random adventure that took up an evening, I eventually got home and the felt truly rewarded for the first time in many games.
The console version also brings seamless drop-in-out multiplayer, limited to your own friends this aspect works very nicely and it is a great way to share and show off your magnificent creations. One hope would be for maps to be shared in a way that can synchronize online and keep everybody in the same world, rather than just visiting.
Minecraft is hard to review because it hits the target on so many levels, it actually deserves a blog all of its own.
Minecraft is a time sink and can easily become an obsession, I have been glad that the review side of life has been quiet because it would be all too easy to ignore any blockbusters in the ongoing mission to create another grand castle with a lava moat. In a world of games with narrative that I often never fully complete it really is a joy to thrive in a world of my making, in a game with no end.
I think for now that is enough writing about Minecraft, the message Is simple, go home and download the best 115 megabytes you’ll ever buy from Microsoft, close the curtains, call in sick and cancel any pre-orders you might have for the rest of the year.
See you in the Nether.