Minecraft | Available Now
PC, Xbox 360, Mobile | Publisher: Mojang | Developer: Mojang
Minecraft is a very unique creature in many ways. Aside from the fact that it’s a game that millions have already been playing for the past couple of years during the title’s Alpha and Beta phases, it’s also the most genuinely “open-ended” game possibly ever created. Minecraft is distinct in that it has no known objectives, no known goals and no known finish. It’s just… survival. And in other cases, it’s just a game of how creative and innovative can you be.
Throughout the game’s development, Mojang Specifications has expanded the repetoire of what is available to the player. In almost every case, this game is a demonstration of “if you can think it, you can do it”. And the beautiful part is? You only ever start with your fists and a tree. For the sake of people who have either never played Minecraft or who were ulimately waiting for the game’s November release, I’ll be writing this review for you. For those of you who have already played the game, feel free to head back to your world and see what kind of madness you can cook up, you don’t need me to tell you how good this game is.
The best summary I can give you of Minecraft is The Sims meets I Am Legend meets FarmVille meets Man vs. Wild meets a set of LEGOs. Okay, I can do better. Minecraft is a game of exploration, creation, invention and survival. The game features two core modes, Survival and Creative. A third mode, Hardcore, is just a more punishing version of Survival. In Survival mode, you’re plopped on a randomly generated world with nothing on you but your bare hands. Depending on your world, you may be on a beach, in a forest, on top of a mountain, in a valley, who knows? The first goal of this is that you need to start gathering materials to create the items you’ll need to survive. In other words, start punching trees.
Wood is the first basic component of almost every tool in the game. While the tools can scale all the way up to Diamond (which is extremely powerful and durable), wood will still get you started. As you punch away at a tree, you’ll start to break it apart into blocks of wood. You’ll have noticed long before this point the incredibly simplistic visual style of Minecraft. And even as the graphic engine has evolved, the hard block 8-bit style is a trademark of this game so it hasn’t changed much. With that tree taken out, wood in hand, you then need to turn it into something useful. By bringing up your inventory (by default, the E key) you see a 4-square crafting area. Plop the wood there and suddenly you can turn it into wooden planks. Take the planks, stack them one above the other and you get sticks. Put a plank in all 4 spaces and you get a crafting table. From there, the world is your oyster.
I can’t explain the vast amounts of items and contraptions you can create in Minecraft. In addition to every sword, hoe, armor piece, axe, pickaxe, button, torch and door you’ll build on the crafting table (just to name a few), there are millions more possibilities for what you can create with patience and experimentation. An item called Redstone is often the source for complicated circuits and switches that are so versatile, one user is on a mission to create a working basic computer out of Redstone from within the game. This is just a taste of what you can do in Minecraft. Most people, though, will just want to explore. However, it’s also worth mentioning that in Survival mode, you also need to eat, so carve yourself a wooden sword (a stick then a plank above it and another plank above that) and start killing some pigs and cows. Then find some coal. And build a furnace so you can cool that raw meat into something more healthy. You see where I’m going with this? All of that, and you have to survive the spawning zombies, killer spiders, skeleton archers and those god damn Creepers every night.
Creative mode is the option for people who want to avoid the Survival aspect of the game and just want to build. You’re given unlimited access to the various types of blocks in the game, the ability to break any block in one hit and the ability to fly. Some people just love to create massive structures in the game or replicas of other things. This is the way to do it. Creative lets the artistic side of your brain flow while Survival tests and tries your inner Bear Grylls (no pee drinking, though… fortunately).
When it all comes down to it, Minecraft has introduced a genre of game that it is the benchmark for. Since its release, its often been duplicated but never replaced. It’s perhaps the only game out there from an independent developer that has outsold most mass market games before it was even officially in a release build. By November 7th, several weeks before the final release version came out, Minecraft sold over 4 million copies. There’s a reason for that. Minecraft is perhaps one of the most amazing game experiences you can ever have. Period.