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9 Reviews

Minecraft review: The indie build-'em-up feels right at home on Xbox 360

A superb port of Mojang's million-selling smash hit

By day, Minecraft's blocky world is divinely peaceful. Gentle ambient music plays as you explore the surreal, randomly generated landscape, which is made up of entirely of square blocks and 8-bit textures.

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It's during these quiet hours that you gather materials; chopping down trees for wood, digging into the earth to mine stone, killing animals for food. Then you build a shelter - maybe a simple hut, or a gargantuan castle atop a mountain peak - because at night, this is a very different place.

When the sun drops, the environment is plunged into darkness and the monsters wake up. Zombies, giant spiders, and skeletons roam the land, attacking you on sight. Even with a full set of armour and a sword - crafted from raw materials, like everything else in Minecraft - surviving isn't easy. You're always safer indoors, by the glow of a torch. They don't like light.

STAYING ALIVE

Minecraft is a game about creation and survival. When you start a new game, a random world is generated, and you're dumped in it with no materials, and no supplies besides a map of the immediate area (a feature new to the Xbox version; on PC you had to make the map yourself). Everything has to be built and crafted; from your house, to the tools you use to build it.

Of course, you can turn the monsters off altogether. The 'peaceful' difficulty setting gives you free reign of the world without having to worry about nightfall, which will suit gamers who'd rather just build stuff than fight giant spiders. But this can feel a little aimless if you have no particular project in mind, and the enemies make it feel more like a 'game'. The choice is yours.

The learning curve can be quite steep initially, but 4J Studios - the team in charge of the Xbox 360 port - have done a superb job at making this more streamlined and user friendly than the PC version. The controls have been mapped nicely to the Xbox pad, and visually it has a steady frame rate and a decent draw distance - although worlds do take longer to generate than on PC.

First off, crafting is easier. A new interface presents all available objects, and tells you exactly what materials you need to make them. On PC, you had to make frequent trips to the Minecraft Wiki or learn recipes by accident, but couch-bound console gamers needn't worry about that inconvenience. Some will accuse this of being 'dumbed down', but from a game design perspective, it's objectively better.

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They've added a hand-holding tutorial too, which teaches you the basics on a specially built map. It's optional, and long-time PC players may balk at the idea, but remember: this will be many peoples' first encounter with the game, and not telling them anything would present a needless barrier of entry. Whether we like it or not, Minecraft is no longer a cult, underground curio; it's a multi-million dollar game with a rapidly expanding audience, and this kind of accessibility is crucial to its continued success.

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