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Minecraft Review

Minecraft's younger XBLA brother does the brand proud.

Minecraft

The announcement that Minecraft was coming to XBLA was guaranteed to cause a great divide of anger from the PC-gaming faithful and rejoice from console gamers. The question of why Minecraft should be ported to a console is a valid one, with many gamers claiming it could only be a lesser version. The lack of mod support for this version alone is enough for most to turn their nose at the thought, and though updates are planned for the game, it has been said by Mojang, the game's developer, that the Xbox 360 Edition would be a bit behind it's PC counterpart. Yet with all of these things considered, is it not possible that Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition could be up to par with, or even best its brother?

Minecraft

Perhaps the main draw of this version of Minecraft is how the player will experience the game: on a television, from the couch, controller in hand. The gameplay is the same addicting, tried-and-true formula that granted Mojang overnight success some three years ago. However, the 360 Edition boasts new additions like split-screen multiplayer and a crafting guide(!), the latter making Minecraft a heck of a lot easier for newcomers to pick up and play. This may dissuade fans of the original, as part of Minecraft's charm was essentially throwing the player in a sandbox with no directions. The basic concept of Minecraft remains untouched in the 360 Edition, but the need to remember each crafting recipe or keep a browser window open with a Minecraft wiki has been rendered unnecessary, and is better for it.

Minecraft

Multiplayer for the 360 Edition boasts four players locally and up to eight players over Xbox Live. The addition for split-screen is a godsend, and really helps drive home the console approach with this one. Each player can play at their own pace and aren't hindered by the other players in any way, and can drop in-and-out of the session without any disruption to the other players. Mojang's introduction of a tutorial for crafting was a great method for getting newcomers to pick up the game. The change from a keyboard and mouse to an Xbox 360 controller is intuitive and comfortable, so much so that Minecraft feels like a true console experience. Every button press is natural, and after a minute or so, there is no question as to which button does what. On the main gameplay screen, the A button jumps, the X button brings up the crafting screen, the Y button brings up the player's inventory, and the B button throws a selected item. The right trigger mines, the left trigger places blocks down or has context-sensitive actions, and the left and right bumpers cycle through the nine on-screen items.

Minecraft

Something has to be said for the superiority over consoles when it comes to first-person PC games because of the aim accuracy and speed that the mouse gives the player. That said, tis isn't the type of game that requires aim speed and accuracy, and pushing in different directions on the 360 controller's analog sticks feel much more natural and effective. Those who may have shied away from Minecraft or found it inaccessible because of the PC controls will take solace in the Xbox 360 Edition because of this. The 8-bit/3D hybrid graphics of Minecraft are perfectly intact, and look absolutely stunning on an HD television, the colors are vibrant and the blocks are as crisp as ever. Being able to sit from a distance allows the player to take in the unique world of Minecraft in a new way. However, compared to the PC version, the game suffers from a weaker draw distance and lacks the option to change fog density and graphical quality. It can be a bit disorienting at times to be exploring and have the world build it's structure as the player gets near. Given the arguably simplistic graphical approach, there isn't much of an explanation as to why this happens, especially when the earlier PC version prevails in this regard.

Minecraft

The 360 edition gives the game's sonic atmosphere more room to breathe as well, especially when playing with augmented sound systems. The piano-synthesizer soundtrack offers a nice ambiance for one's mining pleasure, as it is mostly delegated to repeated harmonic motifs, rather than the memorable, catchy hooks found in other console games. Hostile mobs (the game's enemies) have gone up in eeriness, and hearing their groans when mining is even more stress-inducing. Porting a PC game to a console without upsetting fans of the original is no easy task, but Mojang seem to have perfected a formula that should upset the least amount of people as possible. Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is clearly re-imagined with this context in mind, and feels just right on its new console home.

Minecraft (XBLA Edition)
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The same addictive recipe that will keep players mining for hours, coupled with the console-exclusive tutorial and split-screen multiplayer secure nothing but positive reinforcement. However, lack of support for mods and textures may dissuade fans of the original.
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The game's airy score does its job well, but you won't find yourself eagerly downloading the soundtrack anytime soon. All of the sound effects for mining and the various mobs are more distinct thanks to the clarity of a television.
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Gorgeous in their own way, and now even more so from the comfort of one's couch. The poor draw distance in comparison to the PC is disappointing, though.
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Easier than ever thanks to the added tutorial, and the button mapping is exquisite. How did anyone play Minecraft without a gamepad?
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If anyone has yet to pick up Minecraft, or if the PC flair of the original wasn't convincing the first time around, Minecraft: Xbox Edition is the perfect way to give the game another chance. There are literally hundreds of hours of gameplay to be had, and at an asking price of 1600 Microsoft Points, one would be hard-pressed to turn it down.
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