By Clint Demeritt
The darling of hardcore gamers and game designers alike, Minecraft's blocky aesthetic and open-ended, Do-It-Yourself gameplay have charmed millions. After years of public beta testing and polish, Xbox 360 owners can now get in on all the tree-punch, creep-dodging fun with Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition. If you’re totally unfamiliar with the game, there’s plenty to explore and enjoy, and it’s easy to get lost in its numerous charms.
Minecraft has a pretty simple concept: You mine blocks to reconfigure them into whatever pattern you see fit and at night, monsters come out to terrorize you and your creations. People have created all sorts of wonders such as replicas of the Starship Enterprise, rollercoasters, as well as mechanical shooting galleries.
Obviously, the title takes on two meanings: Apart from the mining part of the game, there is also quite a bit of crafting. You have to make tools: axes to help fell trees, picks to collect precious metals and swords to fend off deadly zombies and exploding creeps. You can also maintain rails to guide mine carts and there is also a pretty mechanism system with wires and switches to activate machines and trap doors.
On console, the crafting aspect of the game offers much more guidance than its PC counterpart. On the computer, crafting is done Horadric Cube style – players arrange ingredients on a grid to create the various tools and structures. It offers some nice versatility, but can often leave players in the dark on what to make. In the Xbox version, there is a list of outputs to select from, giving players a much better idea of what they can create. It's a nice feature, but on the other hand, it’s occasionally difficult to find a specific item that you want to craft.
The game does have some combat mechanics, but Minecraft is mostly about exploration and creation. Players can craft swords, bows, arrows and armor, but that’s about it. You won't be casting spells or leveling up stats. Most of the time, when you see a monster you'll be running the other way, pleading for them not to kill you. However, Minecraft does offer other dimensions filled with menacing mobs and an end-game boss.