|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Mojang, 4J Studios|
|Release: May 9, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Fantasy Violence, Mild Violence|
by Josh Wirtanen
The PC version of Minecraft is easily the title that stole the most of my time in 2011. Having written about my early experiences in a series called "Mining Minecraft," and my later adventures in my final review of the PC version (in which I gave out the highest score I've ever given a game), I was recently tasked with returning to Minecraft's blocky world. Only this time, it was on a console. Enter Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition.
The move to Xbox doesn't change a lot fundamentally; you are still dropped into a randomly generated, fully malleable world with nothing but your bare hands. You'll gather resources by day and fight off monster attacks by night as you slowly mold this world into your own personal piece of art. However, to accommodate the move to the 360, many of the finer details have been altered.
Most noticeably, Xbox 360 Edition is a pre-Adventure Update build of the game. This means you won't find Endermen, Ender Dragons, NPC villages, silverfish, ravines, mooshrooms, or any of the other bizarre things that showed up during and after the Adventure Update dropped last fall. Additionally, you won't have a hunger bar and thus your health won't automatically regenerate when you have a full belly. There is no longer any experience gain, and enchanting doesn't exist at all. Some quality-of-life features are missing as well, including sprinting and the ability to charge your arrows before firing. In fact, if you've put in your time on the PC version, you might cry foul, saying this is a late beta edition of the game. Well, you'd actually be right about that.
But even without the multitude of post-Adventure Update features, Minecraft retains just about all of its charm. Pigs are as blocky and tasty as ever, mining will still cause you to completely lose track of time, and Creepers will continue to scare the pants off you—especially when they start swarming around something you've put hours of work into building. Considering the fact that a portion of the Minecraft fan base felt the Adventure Update was a departure from what made the game so much fun in the first place, going back to a version that predates that is actually refreshing in a lot of ways.
However, there are some aspects about 360 Edition that definitely prevent it from being anything more than a little brother to the PC version. Most notable is the fact that your world is not infinite. In the PC version, new terrain will continue to generate as long as you keep traveling. The 360 Edition has a finite area, surrounded by ocean and ultimately (regrettably) an invisible wall. The area that does generate is fairly large, but I hit two of the four walls in the time I spent with the game, and I'm pretty sure I could have found the other two in the space of a few hours had I intentionally gone looking for them. I'm certain this decision had to be made due to the limitations of the Xbox 360, but Minecraft just feels less enthralling when you know you're basically inside a glass cage.
Another glaring omission is the lack of Creative Mode. Personally, Survival has always been my cup of tea, so I wasn't bothered by this. However, those who simply love to build without having to gather supplies or fend off monsters will not be happy by its removal.
But the 360 Edition doesn't just chop things out. A noteworthy addition here is a series of pop-up tutorials that are designed to help new players learn the basics behind the game. I applaud the effort, because one complaint about the original version is that it takes either a more experienced player showing you the ropes or an online guide of some sort to get you oriented. However, if you're familiar with the game already, these pop-ups come up whenever you position your crosshairs over anything for the first time. It's distracting at best and is often downright obnoxious. It wouldn't be a big deal if there were a menu option that allowed you to turn the hints off. But there isn't. And that's a pretty big flaw in my book.
Another feature designed to ease new players into the game's mechanics is the simplified crafting system. You don't need to lay out your ingredients on a grid here; instead, you are allowed to craft anything as long as the proper ingredients are in your character's inventory. For anyone who's played Terraria, this should be instantly familiar. If you're a stickler for adhering to Minecraft's specific recipes, this may feel like cheating. But to anyone else, this is actually a welcome change, and crafting as a whole is less tedious as a result.
Now, one of the major benefits of playing Minecraft on the 360 is that you have access to Xbox LIVE's social features. Joining another player in an online match is a breeze, and party chat will be your best friend out in the wilds of Minecraft. However, there is no in-game text chat feature, so if your buddy doesn't have a mic, you'll be messaging via LIVE's mail system, which is painfully awkward. So get a mic. You'll be happy you did.
You can also set up your world so that any random player can hop into it at any time so long as you have it running. This does open your world up to potential griefers, but it also means you could make some new friends. I actually made one or two, even before the game's official launch. Though you can only have up to eight people in a world at a time, this is far easier than the PC version's server implementation. The most people I had in a world at once was three, but the game ran incredibly smooth. Since I've been on PC servers that would lag like crazy with only two people, this is a step in the right direction in my book. Especially for people with low-end PCs.