A Minecraft Newbie's Discourse: GB's First Xbox 360 User Review
"Last night I fell into a chasm and had to claw my way out with my bare hands when my pick axe broke. By the time I arrived at the surface, it was night. Wolves bayed at the square moon and a zombie shuffled under the tree ahead. Armed with only a flint and steel, I crept back, hoping to avoid being disemboweled limb from limb.
From behind a fetid creeper explodes, sending me flying, injured and stunned, into the path of the zombie. It turns, mouth crunching on a bone from his last victim, and lets out a morbidly low moan. I strike my flint and set the zombie ablaze, but even as its very flesh cooks on its bones, it continues to approach me, intent on feasting on my pixelated brain. Trapped against the wall, I can retreat no further. The zombie's arms creep closer. Closer. CLOSER. They brush my shoulders... Before the zombie finally expires. I wipe the sweat from my brow, and gaze upon the rising sun, thanking and cursing my luck, but knowing all too well it will not be long before I am once again beset by the shuffling undead..."
Minecraft is what you make it. For me, it is the best excuse for an adventure I've had on the Xbox 360. If you don't know what Minecraft is, then you've probably been in a dark cave for the last year or so. And even if you do know what Minecraft is, you too have probably been down a dark cave for the last year also! Minecraft is a huge open-world, sandbox style game. There are no objectives or real "rules"; like Skyrim without the quests and if you were able to actually build the world! Only retro and with more undead.
You start out with nothing but a map, thrust into a strange world. You are given the foreboding knowledge that you should find shelter, because at night, the undead walk. And they certainly do not disappoint. So off you set, cutting wood, mining stone and coal, collecting goods - all so you can survive and carve your own little corner of the world. Although to be honest, corner is a bit excessive. Tiny corner is probably more accurate, because not only is the surface world LARGE, but there is also a massive underground, filled with dungeons, cave systems and secrets. And that's not even mentioning the Netherworld you can eventually travel too for high-level, dungeoneering fun!
Some people will definitely be off-put or daunted by the lack of objectives, so I will say that Minecraft does require a small level of self-governance and imagination. However, once you set your mind on a task - whether it be creating your dream home, creating a farm, a roller coaster or even mining the earth for all her riches - you will see the complications that arise and give you objectives to complete in a sense to make things chug along. You can't simply just reach into a money pool and spawn a cake; if you want to throw a birthday fiesta, you'll have to find all the ingredients, and they're all scattered to the four winds.
The gameplay is very easy to pick up and understand however. Most of the controls you can use are on the screen at most times, but in case you forget what to do, there's a great tutorial and "how to" section you can fall back on. I've never had to do that, because the gameplay is very intuitive from the simplest act of digging a hole, right through to crafting your own weapons and tools out of the resources you gather. However, there is still a deep richness to the secrets of the game. For example, you can turn a bone into bonemeal to grow crops, but it can also be used to befriend wolves. So behind the simplicity is still a very complex game that will give a challenge to anyone who enjoys open-ended games. Don't be fooled by the very retro style (which you adapt to very quickly in any case).
The greatest facet of Minecraft on the 360 however, is the multiplayer. Without a doubt. Chipping away at a cave on your lonesome (possibly singing "I'm So Ronery" - thumbs up for those who get the reference) is great an all, but when there's two, or three, or EIGHT of you, the world becomes a very interesting place indeed. Not only does it add a whole new dimension to the gameplay, but you get things done faster too. You can join your friends' worlds (or they can join you if you've set it to joinable) very easily and jump right in. A group of us began building our house (until I accidentally led a creeper onto the roof...) and by the end of our 6 hour play session, we'd built a multi-storied bachelor pad and a couple of mine out-posts. Some of us would break away for a bit and try our hand at creating our own little space (or creating obsidian traps to entomb each other in...), and it was very exciting coming back every so often seeing the progress of people's expansions.
Split screen play is also a major plus. Being able to sit back with a pal and just explore the world is great, and will undoubtedly be a grand addition to the house party. I haven't tested it too deeply (I haff no fwiends...) mainly because I almost always prefer my multiplayer action to be online with a full screen, but having anything above two players, let alone four, in a game like that, sitting right next to you, talking, is priceless.
One problem however, as with ALL map-creation games (hands up if you've had THAT friend come into your Halo forge map and start placing mongooses or deleting your hard work), is that there's no way to stop your friends from messing with your stuff (unless you don't plan to save), so you have to really have to have a lot of trust in your pals and learn c--o-o-p-e-r-a-t-i-o-n. However, the pros FAR out-weigh any cons when it comes to multiplayer. The number of times one of us would get stuck down a hole and need rescuing (mainly me lol) or that we'd go cave exploring together and one of us would get killed by falling gravel or lava, are too many to mention. It's just fun. Something magic happens when you combine no limits with no rules in a game and then add multiplayer. You'll have to just experience it for yourself (preferably with a good group of friends that aren't too serious and can see the adventure/funny side of your plight).
I never played the PC (or MAC etc) version of Minecraft. However, I did see a few videos of the PC version while I was waiting for the release. Okay, probably more like 10 hours of videos on YouTube. Don't judge me lol. If I get excited for a game, like Skyrim or Dark Souls, I watch and watch until I can play and play. Anyway, that is the only reason I have ANY fault with the game itself. Not glitchy gameplay, not inferior quality, but the fact that I've seen how awesome some of the extra features on the PC version are, and how they're not available in the Xbox 360 version. Stuff like luring animals into your den with wheat to farm them, or opening fence gates (SERIOUSLY? No gates?) or hunger meters, which aren't game changing, but nice to have around to make the experience even more amazing. This is offset by the far superior crafting system, but seriously, I set up an entire farm and was heartily disappointed when little sheepies wouldn't follow me back. Sob.
So if you haven't played or seen the PC version, do not. Just don't. Not until the software developers have released enough DLC on the console version to bring it up to par with the PC version. Which they WILL do (Won't you? *Glare*). This is mainly to preserve your innocence and keep your mind set on the awesome version which is Minecraft Xbox 360, because as you've probably read, most of the complaints about it are from people who know what features are on the PC version. I wasn't exposed to this as much, nor do I care as much, so it doesn't sway me at all when I say this is probably one of my favourite games on the Xbox 360 and worth all of the 1600MSP.
The only other problem is that the game ISN'T bad enough that I can use the awesome review title I'd thought up (Moancraft teehee). Drats! ; )
So in closing, get this game. I get giddy with excitement when I stumble across a new cave system, or mine diamonds, and I know you will too. And if you happen to join my world and I'm down a deep mineshaft, don't pour a river of water down it and seal the entrance (I know where you live Mike). Happy delving! :D