Review: Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition
:Simple yet addictive gameplay, crisp visuals, great controls, purest form of sandbox gameplay available today
:Music, text might appear too small on smaller TV's
Does Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition live up to it’s name?
For the better part of four hours I’ve been digging a tunnel through a mountain near my house, I want to be able to justify it by saying it’s needed to help me complete something in the game. In reality it sounded like a really good idea in my head to pound through a mountain until I came out the other side. The best thing is that even after these four hours I’m not behind in finishing the game, because I can’t, I’m not supposed to.
That epitomizes Minecraft’s and now Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition’s hook. You have a sandbox and the rest is up to you.
Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition starts off with a tutorial that puts you through the basics of the gameplay in a small plot of land, it’s been argued that this removes some of the discovery of the game but I don’t agree. The tutorial is sparse but hits on the key elements of gathering materials, building with materials, and using tools to improve your productivity. The first thing you will probably notice as you look around is the giant Minecraft logo in the sky, it’s like the Hollywood logo in a lot of ways and completely breaks the fourth wall, not too sure if I like it’s self awareness or if it kills the atmosphere it’s trying to build. You start off learning to gather wood, convert it to planks, and then building a workbench, from there the options to build fly off the charts. You are directed to make one of each tool in the game which consists of a shovel, hoe, pick, and axe and all are used just like you expect them to be used.
Soon after you make tools you’ll see that they wear down after each use, eventually becoming broken and leaving you with an empty space where your item used to be. When you go off on long trips either bring more then one item or a simpler way is to bring enough wood to make a workbench and whatever tool you need and craft on the fly. On a semi related side note, when you kill pigs you sometimes get pork chops and when using pork chops as a weapon they never break down from use. I found myself killing a lot of pigs with pork chops to save my tools and weapons for more important things.
As you walk around the tutorial you’ll come across things like a chest that has fishing poles with a small tutorial on them or another chest that has a boat inside and again it’ll explain the ins and outs of that too. There’s an unfinished home and you’re expected to finish it off before night falls.
Why finish it before night comes? That’s because night is filled with dangerous monsters that are on a search and destroy mission with you being their prime target. The way to avoid monster attacks is to make sure you have a place to hide, that could be a house but in a pinch you can build a wall around you, top it off with a ceiling and stay in your instant closet until morning comes, sure it’s not glamorous but you’ll stay alive. Also make sure that your makeshift hideaway is a closet rather then an empty room because monsters spawn in the dark and if you make a sealed off room with no light and start to hear a guttural moaning sound? You just became the main course.
If you’re feeling adventurous you can build a weapon like a sword or bow and arrow and take them on man vs monster but early on your best best is to make yourself scare when dusk comes.
That’s not to say things can’t attack you while it’s daytime, many times while making the deck for my lakeside home giant spiders dropped down and tried to make me their lunch.
After you’ve survived your first night and completed the tasks in the tutorial you can walk through a stone passage and enter the rest of the world. What you’ll notice is that there’s a deserted town that covers all the basics of building. There’s beds and bookcases and switches and signs, the best way I can describe it is to say it’s the front of the Lego box that shows what you’re going to end up with once you assemble your bricks.
What I will tell everyone to do at this point is to save where you are in the tutorial, stop playing, and go start a new game.
There’s two reasons why I say this.
1. Don’t spoil certain portions of the game.
Yeah, I know what I said up there with “it’s been argued that this removes some of the discovery of the game but I don’t agree.” I stand by that but this isn’t the tutorial anymore and to have everything prefabricated and ready to use kills a lot of what Minecraft Minecraft. Getting to this point of the game past the opening tutorial you know what you need to do to succeed at the game, what you’re going into now is almost a cheat code of sorts that shows the unlocks for everything in the game.
2. You’re not going to want to start over.
The game is addicting and you’re going to spend hours building and renovating your house (or tunneling through a mountain). In the area you’re currently in you’re going to start to wonder if it would have just been easier to start a new world and start from scratch. It is and that’s why I’m telling you this because once you get a few hours in and you think “maybe I should have started fresh” you’ll also think “but I’m already 3 hours in and I don’t want to rebuild everything”.
Once you start a new game you’ll have the choice of difficulty ranging from peaceful with no monsters to hard with lots of monsters that are nearly impossible to kill. You’ll also see the options to make an online game through Xbox Live and a box to make it invite only. Lastly you’ll be able to name your world and then add a seed for the world generator. The seed part is what confused me but I sorted it out, it just means what world and if you select no seed then you’ll get a randomly generated world.
From there it’s just like the tutorial, you’re alone and have nothing but the clothes on your back and the idea is to get to a place of comfort. That’s it, no final boss or high score, just work until you gain the overall satisfaction of a job well done. This is where there’s a love/hate relationship with the game, everyone looking for a predetermined goal wont find what they’re looking for because there’s no story, no direction, just the world and what you make out of it. How I said I killed pig with pork chops to conserve my tools? Well I imagined the local news doing a story on pork on pork crime and instantly there was a storyline in my game, it’s whatever you can imagine.
Multiplayer is a breeze. You have the choice of either split screen or online, in the case of online after you hit play game you see any friends playing their worlds on the right, just click and join. You also have the option to invite friends into your world using the standard Xbox Live system. Overall I found the multiplayer to be excellent and lag free.
With all this creative power it’s nice to see that the controls don’t disappoint. The left thumbstick moves your character while the right controls the camera, the right trigger is used for breaking down materials and the left trigger is for placing materials, and the bumpers are used to scroll through whatever you’re carrying at the moment.
The menu system is easy to operate by pressing Y anytime in the game and a variation of the menu system is used when you press X to open up the personal crafting section when you’re by yourself. When you want to do some heavy duty crafting then you need to go to your workbench and open that with the left trigger, the same applies to the furnace controls.
The game defaults to a first person camera angle but you’re also able to play in third person or a creepy third person view where your character is facing you, you can select what camera angle you want by clicking the thumbstick any time during gameplay. I find that for the breaking down and building segments of the game first person is best for the extra level of precision it allows you.
The graphics are clear and crisp and while they’re not photo realistic there’s a very good level of design going on here. The graphics might be simple but they’re not basic, a lot of thought went into making minimalistic design choices for items so that they are easily understandable for the player. The art style also creates a very specific personality for all the animals (good or bad) in the game. Overall there’s a lot of individuality in this game and that’s quite a feat to pull off considering that everything is made of blocks.
The sound in the game also follows the minimalistic tone set by the visuals. It creates the atmosphere in the game by providing cues for whatever action is happening in that moment. Everything from a chicken clucking to your character’s footsteps changing letting you know you’re now standing on a different resource. The audio clues are well thought out if not that heavily used.
The music is the only place where the game falls a bit flat. The slow paced tunes fit the speed of the game but for the most part they’re hollow songs that don’t bridge the gap between gameplay and soundtrack. As I wrote about previously, the music sounds either like waiting room music or a sad ending theme for the Lifetime channel.
There’s one particular melody I like that’s heavy on the synthesizer and sounds like an educational film that aired on a public broadcasting station in the late 70′s/early 80′s but besides that I found the soundtrack to be very pedestrian and uninspired.
Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety:
- Plenty to do
- Very relaxing gameplay
- Option to not have any enemies
- Ability to save anywhere
- Easy pick up and play gameplay
- Controls are intuitive and easy to understand
- Does not require fast reflexes so good to play with cold/numb hands
Why it may be unhelpful for people with anxiety:
- No direction at all means that it will be difficult to sidetrack anxious thoughts
- Default music is not relaxing at all
- Nighttime has a very creepy feel with nowhere dark being safe
Why you should be playing this:
Minecraft is an experience like no other. While there’s been other games that share some of it’s qualities nothing hits the same chords as Minecraft. The ability to make something out of nothing only because you can is somehow a very rewarding experience. I keep on telling myself that I should not like this game, that I’m not gathering resources and building things for any reason and I should stop and yet hours later I find great satisfaction on breaking through the side of a mountain and seeing daylight.
Sometimes it feels like an RPG that has me gathering resources and honing my skills and equipment for a grand adventure yet no one is telling me what that adventure is, instead I’m exploring a cave or roaming the countryside or making a really nice deck that has inlet channels for the water to create a piece of art in the front of my house. To call Minecraft a video game version of Legos is selling it short, I’ve never crushed down my Legos into their basic components and built entirely new compounds with them yet I do in Minecraft. A game that is so simple yet so complex is rare and it’s hook is undeniably real.