I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend a few days ago about to try out the new Minecraft for the Xbox 360. We wanted to check out the game a bit before calling it a night. Both Apryle and I have played a lot of the original Minecraft on the PC, more her than I, so she’s familiar with all the latest additions. Personally I haven’t played it almost a year. I was about to show her the game when I realized she could actually play alongside me as this version supports up to 4-player split-screen. Our brief session ended up lasting for 2 hours. The same thing happened last night too. Minecraft was already an addicting game to begin with. The premise, simply dropping you into a world and letting you build stuff and do whatever you want, is unique and charming. Being able to now experience all this with friends is simply awesome.
I adored Minecraft on the PC. My only gripe with it was that it was a bit complicated to play with friends. You had to open up a private server and invite people to join it. However, if you wanted to continue playing in that world alone when you friend was at work or away, he would have to leave his computer on all day and make sure the server was on if he was hosting. Plus, with constant lag and bugs, the experience could sometimes get a bit frustrating. Of course, the game was still in beta at that time so some of these problems have most likely been fixed. What makes this edition so exciting is the tremendous potential Xbox Live can give it. Inviting friends in your game now takes three seconds, as does joining a game. With the inclusion of party chat, Minecraft should become more user friendly. Sure, all of this is already possible on the PC version, but a unified service like Xbox Live makes all of this so much simpler and easier to execute. The addition of split-screen is just icing on the cake, but man is it ever delicious icing.
In order to run the game with up to eight different players with no lag, the Xbox 360 version has unfortunately one big letdown. The game is nowhere near as huge as the PC version, which is eight times the size of the Earth. The Xbox version is only 1,000 by 1,000 blocks. That’s still pretty huge, but something that Apryle was pretty disappointed in. I imagine some hardcore Minecraft fans will feel the same. Besides that, this version is not the latest one, meaning it has a few omissions like food stamina and some of the newer animals (octopus, etc.). However, the game does promise many updates so it wouldn’t surprise me to see these added in the coming months.
Finally there’s one added feature that’s really useful. Instead of having to manually craft all the items, you can simply click on let’s say a sword and if you have the necessary ingredients, the game will make one for you. The downside with this is that you lose the charm of discovering new items by experimenting with the workbench. Still, this saves you so much time that at the end of the day, I think veterans will appreciate it. No longer do you need a wiki page beside you to figure out all the different recipes.
Right now, colour me impressed with the XBLA version. Split-screen will undoubtedly breath new life into Minecraft. It’s just so much more fun to play with friends and this will also make it easier to introduce new players to the game and show them the ropes. Xbox Live makes this all a unified experience. Expect a full review in the coming days as I delve deeper into the game. For now, this is one game you should be on the lookout for.