If you havenít heard of Minecraft and its success story youíve either been living under a rock for the past year, or youíve been waiting for a boat to save you off some tropical island that youíve been trapped on. This success story is only growing with the launch of Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition.
Minecraft on the Xbox remains completely faithful to the PC version. It is arguably the best port I have ever played. You can do everything you could do on version 1.6.6 of the PC version, which is exactly what we were promised would be available at launch. Itís a bit weird going back to such an old version with its lack of pistons, enchanting, glass panes, and other things that youíre used to in Minecraft. Itís far from a bad experience though; Minecraft on the 360 really delivers the same kind of experience and thatís exactly why you buy the game. Itís just as fun to play with all of the fancy blocks as it is without them, though the fancy blocks definitely open more building opportunities. If the lack of certain blocks, or other things is worrying to you, I say fear no more. 4J Studios has already promised free updates to Minecraft in the future that will gradually bring it up to parity with the PC version.
Now letís get into what sets the Xbox version of Minecraft apart from the PC version. The first change that you will notice is the inclusion of a tutorial world. I would strongly recommend that all players, both new and old, go through the tutorial. For new players it offers a tutorial that teaches you the basics. For old and new players it offers the chance to get acquainted with using the Xbox controller, a place where you can unlock a crazy number of achievements right off the bat, and some good architecture. As a side note to controls in the game, I find the default sensitivity to be a bit low. You can change the sensitivity to what youíd like it to be, from snail pace to 360 no scope speed. The optimal number for me was 125%, I canít say for sure that it will be optimal for you, but if you find it a bit slow, give it a try.
The second you load the tutorial world youíll notice how awesome Minecraft looks on a Television. Seeing it in such grandeur is amazing and the amount of detail in the 16bit textures really pops out. If you have a 5.1 surround system youíre also in luck as Minecraft sounds phenomenal with 5.1 surround. I warn you though, 5.1 makes it even more unsettling to dig around caves in near darkness. The second thing youíll likely notice is that whenever you look at a block youíll get a fancy pop up explaining what the block is, and some of the things it can be useful for. This cannot be turned off, even in non-tutorial worlds, but I would call it a non-issue as it only appears the first time you run into something. The inventory works much like the PC. You control a pointer with the right analog stick, and use it to select things. Since it doesnít have mouse clicks to control things it gives you options to take all, take half, drop one, or drop all. I find it works just as well as the PC version.
Currently the largest difference between the games is likely the crafting system. On the Xbox you no longer have to layout items from the inventory in the general shape of an item. You get a menu with 7 tabs that sort items out, you select what you want to make by choosing a tab, then by scrolling over to the item you want to make, and provided you have the materials, you have your item. Itís actually a really good system, and the first thing I thought of when I saw it is, boy that system would actually work very well in the PC version.
Now, unfortunately Minecraft on the Xbox does have one major drawback when compared to the PC. The size of the world on the Xbox is limited to 1000x1000 blocks. This is far smaller than the PC. It could limit the size of mega projects, and it could be a bit small when playing with many friends on one map. Itís really not that small of a world though, itís still very large in the sense that it takes about 5 minutes to walk from one side of the world to the other.
Contrary to some rumors, multiplayer is in the game in the form of 4 person split screen, and 8 person over the internet multiplayer. While you cannot currently use custom skins, when playing multiplayer it is not just a bunch of Minecraft Steves running around. Every person gets their own different default skin. Split screen and over the internet Minecraft work as well as you would expect. Theyíre both polished and very usable. Playing multiplayer is as simple as starting any world and toggling online game. You can either make it an invite only world, or leave it open for your friends to jump in and out of. If you decide you want to make your world offline again, itís as simple as toggling off the online game. There is no matchmaking in the game, so youíre stuck playing with only your friends, but besides that multiplayer couldnít be any simpler or easier to use.
Minecraft for the Xbox 360 is the definition of a quality port. It is the Minecraft experience on the 360, it isnít just some shoddy product. It contains some nice and easy achievements, avatar awards, gamer pics, and even a theme! I highly recommend this game as a purchase even if you already own Minecraft for the PC. I also suggest that everyone at the bare minimum try the demo, itís only around 115MB and you won't regret it.
Final Score: 9.5/10