Developer: Mojang | Publisher: Mojang | Platform: Xbox 360For those unfamiliar with the concept, Minecraft dumps the player into a randomly generated world and allows them to unleash their creativity in any way imaginable. Starting with literally nothing, the player must use their fists to break up pieces of the world into blocks, which they can then use to craft tools and build shelters. It may sound simple, but the sheer depth of the game will have gamers idly tossing away hours of their days hitting rock walls with their shiny, iron pickaxe in the faint hope that they might strike that precious vein of gold.
And this isnít all the game has to offer. When night falls, the world is invaded by monsters and the player must choose whether to hole up in the cozy shelter they have just finished building, or brave the dangers of the dark in search of safety. This extra dimension of gameplay creates a sense of urgency Ė thereís nothing quite like straying too far from the safety of your house and then frantically running through a field of bow-wielding skeletons back toward your beacon of shelter, while carrying an inventory full of iron and coal and listening to the insistent, fear-instilling hiss of a creeper. Now might be a good time to mention that death results in the loss of everything the player has collected.
A game like Minecraft will only appeal if the player can set goals, whether these goals consist of gathering all the ingredients for a batch of cookies, or building an intricately decorated palace dedicated to the sheer wonderment of Mojangís genius Ė the limits of the game directly correlate with the imagination of the person playing; thus creating the prospect of any amount of replayability. The level of gratification you feel when you finally Ďpopí the final block into place and complete your goal is unmatched by any other sandbox experience, and you are then free to start upon your next project, your only boundary being your own imagination. And the invisible walls that Mojang put in place for the Xbox 360 Edition.
These invisible walls mark just one of the differences between the Xbox 360 Edition and its PC counterpart. Many features of the PC original have not made it into this edition, for instance the hunger bar is not present, nor the ability to brew potions or partake in alchemy, and the infinitely generated worlds of the PC version are replaced by maps that do not exceed 1024◊1024 blocks. Thatís not to say that the world is small, and the guarantee that no two worlds will be the same is enough to keep you coming back for more, and renders the possibility for exploration almost endless. The core experience is essentially identical and with a game as deep as Minecraft, it is difficult to miss a few gameplay elements.
For everything the 360 Edition lacks, it makes up for in something new. Players are treated with a shiny new tutorial level which familiarises them with the concept so as to not leave them out of their depth in the full game and the crafting system has been modified not only to work with a 360 controller, but also to make it far more accessible. However the best new feature that Mojang has bundled into the 360 Edition is the inclusion of split-screen multiplayer. Up to four players can now explore, build and fight monsters together from the comfort of a single sofa. Even though online multiplayer is still a possibility, the fun doesnít quite match up to split-screen. One particular instance had me juggling between protecting my house from creepers and baking a cake, while I screamed frantically at my partner to hurry as he dashed from the depths of cave, pockets heavy with coal, back to the house before the moon came up.
For a game to shed several gameplay elements and still retain an unprecedented level of depth is an achievement. It has already set records on the Xbox Live Arcade, and if that isnít enough to convince you to experience it, how about the notion of sharing that experience with a friend or three? If you missed Minecraft the first time round or were waiting for a good enough reason to buy it, stop now. Grab a friend, get onto the XBLA and download it. Just make sure you donít have any important deadlines in the near future.