Some people don’t think Minecraft’s much of a game. It’s
true, there is no real way to “beat” it, even though the XBLA version
doesn’t have the end content developer Mojang added to the PC version.
But that isn’t what Minecraft is about anyways. Sure, you can play
through the Xbox version and churn out achievements, but the point of
playing Minecraft – the very reason it sinks its claws into you and
won’t let go – is because it’s just so rewarding to set your imagination
free. The secret of Minecraft’s success isn’t any one component of its
design, but rather the way every piece of it coalesces to create an
experience that’s more liberating and creatively fulfilling than most
The 360 version of Minecraft doesn’t coddle you, but it is different
from the PC title. Just like the PC version you create a randomly
generated world, dropping in and setting to work with nothing at the
start. How you proceed is up to you; you set your own goals, working
towards building the basics like shelter, fashioning tools and fighting
for survival against the monsters that come out at night. You could
never settle anywhere permanently, choosing to be a nomad who simply
sets sail on the rivers and seas you encounter, or you can tunnel deep
into the earth to harvest whatever treasures you find.
The 360 version lacks the free-form Creative Mode of the PC, but its
Survival Mode is much more user-friendly. On top of a substantial
tutorial level, which covers all the basics of Minecraft and then even
lets you just keep playing in that world, tooltips regularly pop up.
These work great as a primer for new players, giving them the gist of
each material’s use. At any time you can also open up your inventory and
see a basic description of each item, ensuring you never have to open a
wiki to enjoy Minecraft.
Alongside these great tips and tutorials, the team behind Minecraft
on Xbox has smartly recreated the crafting system. The materials you
need for each recipe are faithful to the PC version, and building them
is accomplished with a few button presses. The crafting menu separates
everything you can make into various categories, allowing you to rapidly
tab between them, select the item you wish to make and then do it in a
snap. If you don’t have the necessary materials, it clearly shows you,
which again makes it so you never have to leave the game to hunt down
additional information. And before you say it, no, tracking down
information is something longtime fans have grown accustomed to doing,
but it isn’t a good feature. The point of Minecraft is to create and
have adventures, not to open up web browsers and read forums.
Just because the 360 version explains gameplay features, doesn’t mean
that you don’t earn everything in Minecraft. Every block of your house,
every window you fashion and every door you put up comes from raw
materials that you harvest. Finishing a powered rail system or laying
the final block of a 12-story tower instills a sense of accomplishment
few games can match. Hours spent trudging through caves and battling
monsters all seem worth it for the moment you break through a block,
place a hand-crafted torch and see the bright colored stones that
indicate there are diamonds to mine. You get the thrill of finding
treasure, the suspense of venturing into the unknown and the reward of
seeing your dreams come to life.
The thing some longtime fans might complain about (and rightfully so)
is the features the 360 Minecraft is missing. Great tutorials and a
streamlined crafting system make it much more user-friendly, but, since
this version of the game is adapted from an early PC beta version, many
recipes and seemingly minor gameplay mechanics are missing. For instance
you can’t sprint and you can’t stack food items. There are no jungle
biomes, either, and mods are pretty much never going to happen on the
Xbox. The other features and additions don’t detract that much from the
experience, but mods have been so great at extending the value and life
of the PC version that they’re deeply missed on Xbox. In the end I don’t
think most newcomers will care about any of these “missing” features,
especially since the core mechanics and crafting recipes are present and
more than enough to inspire countless hours of play.
The PC version of Minecraft never integrated multiplayer
very well, and the barrier to entry was enough that many people
probably didn’t bother. The Xbox version alleviates this with great
integration of Xbox Live, letting you pop into your friends worlds from
the main menu, as well as quickly invite them to yours. You can also
play with up to four players in local split-screen co-op, jumping into
another player’s game or simply running around as team within your own.
It’s a lot of fun creating vast castles, taming the wilds and exploring
caves full of monsters, but it’s even better when you can share those
times with your friends. Minecraft on Xbox just makes that a lot easier.
Minecraft on Xbox is almost as good as the PC
version. It’s still a great way to express yourself, but the lack of
some of the PC features like mods and Creative Mode is disappointing.
The vastly improved crafting interface and smooth online play make it
easier to get into than ever before, which should open up Minecraft to a
whole new audience. If you long to be creative and express yourself in a
videogame, and don’t mind being dropped into a sandbox that lacks
stereotypical game goals, Minecraft is one of the greatest options