The lights are on
I hope that I am not alone when I say that as a child I likely played with Legos more than any other toy I had, even my Ninja Turtles or Ghost Buster figures (yeah, I was THAT kid, lol). I remember spending countless hours on my parents living room floor, colored blocks scattered across the "landscape," my mother saying "I'm tired of stepping on these things!" ...Ah, memories. Point is, some of my fondest moments were seeing what I could create with those small colored rectangles and cubes, but the problem is I always created a mess and never had enough of what I needed. Now, twenty years later, I have the same #@%&*$ problem... and I love it.
Let me begin really quick by saying this; this review comes almost entirely unbiased. I have never played the PC version, and the 360 version is the first time I have ever played the game in any form. I say "almost" only because I have seen the PC version through multiple videos online (mostly Tobuscus) and small instances of watching my friend play. As a new "minecraftian(?)," I found this game to be conflicting for me before I got involved in it. On its surface, before diving into the gameplay, the game appears to be at the very least bizarre, basic, and pointless. I can honestly remember looking at the game and thinking "Who's honestly playing this?" ... I never claimed to be right, only opinionated. After playing it, however, I quickly found myself changing my tune.
Lets start with the graphics. The game does look incredibly simple at first glance. Everything is created in individual cubes across a large landscape, with these cubes mimicking basic elements within real life, including dirt, sand, trees, rock, water, etc. You would not think there was much to like here, but the truth is there are moments where I discover a new area of my world and just say "Wow..." Though the elements are basic in construction, when you discover a new area for the first time and see these elements working together to form the landscape, you find yourself both awe struck and eager to explore this area, learn what exists under the surface, around the next corner, or beyond the horizon. When you create you own structures, you take pride and marvel in what you have put together, knowing the labors behind each piece of the puzzle. The experience drives the visual elements, just as these elements drive the experience.
Speaking of experience, lets dive into the game play. In short, the 360 version is essentially the "Survival Mode" of the PC version (at least so I'm told). You play you... or Steve... or that pixelated blue T-shirt wearing Legoma- uh, "minecraftian(?)" in an open-world. You spawn in a random location in a randomly assembled world named as you wish it to be. Put in the middle of the wilderness, your goal is yours to decide, but essentially boils down to survive the elements and the inhabitants of this world, mostly through means of building a shelter of some sort and tools for your use. By day, you are mostly free to explore, but at night, creatures escape their nocturnal shackles and roam the land above, ranging from skeleton archers, zombies, spiders... and creepers, the "trolls" of the Minecraft world. In order to create, you must also destroy, taking from the land what you need to forge your own survival story. Some keep it simple, sticking to log cabin houses, but for the mightiest structures, tools, and experiences, one must take the first word in the title, and head underground. By digging, a player can have access to much more stone, coal, and later iron, gold, and even diamond, among other elements.
When the elements have been obtained, you essentially put your Lego, uh, "crafting" skills to the test. The game, which essentially a massive sandbox, allows you to build whatever you can using the games building mechanics and basic, although odd, physics. Done in square blocks, you attach blocks of your choosing in the structure of your design in order to create your own structures. Using crafting tables and furnaces, you can also change raw materials into other goods, materials, or tools to make a more complex and thereby much more complete experience. Some materials can even be used to pass electric currents to simple machines, whose uses can vary depending on your design.
I only have a few small issues with this otherwise very satisfying experience. Having seen some material from the PC version (here comes that 15% bias), I noticed that this version seems to have a few extra limitations. Removing the experimental assembly block where players placed raw materials together to create goods, this version have a pre-determined list of what can be (and thereby also what cannot be) created. I view this as both a pro and a con. As a new player, I appreciated the list to aid me in understanding what was possible, but from what I understand, some things that could be created in the PC are not options here (anyone with more information, feel free to comment). Not everything is revealed, however, as many raw materials still have to be found or created in order to make certain materials, and many of these are NOT revealed. Another issue is the limited world size. I am sure that being on a console there had to be some limitation, but it does dishearten me a bit to know that in the PC version, the world can continue to expand beyond the initial borders into a MUCH larger space than the 360 version, as well as a more diverse world, with the ability to have pets, villagers, and so forth. I suppose some of this could be updated and changed in later expansions and so forth, and I hope it is. One final note comes with the multiplayer. Though I LOVE having my friends join me in creating massive structures and projects, I cannot help but have an issue with the fact that what we ALL create can only be accessed through one friend's hard drive. With no online storage, the worlds are stored on an individual console's hard drive, so any online marvels you accomplish in another world cannot be shared with other friends if you did not create the world, nor can you make additions without that file. This is also a bit annoying, certainly not enough to avoid multiplayer, but at the very least something to warn others of ahead of time.
Despite the flaws in the initial system, I have to say this game has proven to be the most addictive game I have played in ages. No matter what you manage to accomplish, you still find yourself wanting to out-do yourself; find more materials, build larger, more unique structures, and explore the possibilities. This game is one of those "word of mouth" deals, where many are reluctant to play it because of its appearance, until that one friend picks it up, and before you know it, every one of his/her friends have to play it (my current count of addicted friends I created is currently up to five, and I was also shown this title). With a world that is free to explore, free to play, and free to create, my childhood memories have been rekindled as something even better... but I still sometimes find myself digging at the bottom of the box for just a few more bits of that particular piece every now and again. Until next time, any diamond donations would be appreciated, do NOT leave the front door open for creepers, and keep playing! .... No, seriously, do you know how long I've spent getting this room just the way I want it? Shut the door!
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