Finally out of beta.
I wasn't entirely sure Microsoft's bid for the exclusive release of Minecraft on Xbox 360 was the smartest business decision. The eternally indie world-builder from Mojang seemed so... PC. Would the server-sharing, block-breaking, Creeper-creeping experience make the transition? How would the multiplayer work and would the game's graphics manage to retain their charm on a huge HD screen? When am I going to find diamond in my world?
In the last few days, I've been sucked in, delighted, and genuinely scared by the fact that I missed this experience when it was still in beta. I'd say Minecraft on Xbox 360 works just fine.
You'll notice that GameRevolution doesn't have a review for the PC version of Minecraft. That's mostly due to the way it exploded on the screen like a 4x4 box of TNT. How do you review an experience that seems perpetually in beta? Luckily, Steve (or Minecraft-dude or whatever) has come to console fully featured and without a bug in sight.
Having finished Beta, Minecraft offers up a smart tutorial and the same world-generating adventure mode. Players can quickly pick up the basics of breaking down blocks, building them back up in a new location, crafting tools, decorations and more, and surviving the night and the living dead that come to roost outside your hastily built shelter.
Know the terror that is a Creeper waiting right outside your door or the consistent hissing of spiders. I couldn't help but wonder if my staple of cows, pigs, and sheep were okay outside at night, but I wasn't about to check on them for the first few in-game days and nights.
It took two or three hours, but it quickly dawned on me why Minecraft's execution is so key in involving players in the admittedly low-res world. While games like Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto IV spell everything out and use visuals to draw players in, Minecraft is as plain as its visuals.
I almost wish I hadn't completed the tutorial. The sense of discovery, whether you're striking a rich vein of valuable materials or lighting your first house with torches, is absolutely unparalleled in today's gaming landscape. Even if you've heard about all this before, it'll never be the same as finding out for yourself.
In that way, Minecraft deserves a 5 out of 5. It's a fantastic experience, drawing players in with discovery, wonder, and a sense that you're playing with some kind of futuristic Legos. Futuristic Legos are awesome.
That said, that experience can wear fairly thin after those first few hours. Xbox 360 Edition's couch co-op can stave off the boredom, as can the online world-sharing, but when everyone else goes to sleep and you're left alone again, the silence can be unbearable.
Setting goals and building your ideas into fully fleshed actualizations are consistently rewarding, but it eventually devolves into work. Work sucks. I didn't take this job to feel like I was "working" and I'm sure you don't play video games to feel like you're "working" either.
When you consider that Minecraft's PC version is only $7 more, has a more vibrant, established community of players and servers, and will surely receive better support over the long term, Xbox 360 Edition's gloss starts to dull. (Hey, did you know you can play the PC version of Minecraft in your web browser? That's missing from this version as well.)
I have to recommend anyone who's yet to play Minecraft or doesn't have a gaming PC to buy Xbox 360 Edition. Immediately. Seriously, do not hesitate. Just. Go. Buy.
If you've already been playing Mojang's baby for years, though, there's nothing new here. Stick to your establishment. And it should be obvious, but if you've tried Minecraft and didn't like it, Xbox 360 Edition won't make a fan out of you.
Code provided by publisher.