Given that Minecraft is a game that is revered for it’s simplistic graphical approach, it would be pointless to compare it to other games of this generation. The real charm is in its visual presentation, which intentionally makes the world and it’s inhabitants comically square-shaped. The square sheep, pigs and chickens always raise a chuckle, and the iconic Creepers still look as menacing as ever in HD.

Based on numerous screenshot comparisons, it can safely be stated that the Xbox 360 version is a faithful port of the PC version, and it survives the transition to the console with both the look and charm intact. The frame-rate is silky smooth, and while there is a bit of lag when the user-created structures load, there is nothing in the way or bugs or glitches that will hamper your experience.

One aspect of Minecraft that often gets overlooked is the sound production and musical score, which really stood out as a strength during my time with the Xbox 360 version. Produced and arranged by Daniel Rosenfeld, better known to the Minecraft community as C418, random music scores play depending on the time of day, with different tracks playing at sunrise, none, sunset and night. The music is comprised of wonderfully ambient, largely piano-driven ballads that perfectly sets the mood for the game. The ambient sounds during the game also sound fantastic, with the monsters being especially startling if they sneak up on you. For this reason, I highly recommend playing Minecraft while using a surround sound system or a good gaming headset.

If this is your first time playing Minecraft, and have been apprehensive about what the game might be like, the Xbox 360 version is a good point of entry because it was designed with additions to help ease new players into it. The simplified crafting system, having a map from the beginning and freely adjustable difficulty settings will take a lot of the guess work and grinding out of your formative hours with the game.

The real fun factor of the game is letting your imagination run wild and building whatever you like, which seems like busywork at first but quickly becomes an addiction. The satisfaction of building that perfect abode in the world or finding a rare item deep underground  is on par with beating an entire game. Minecraft really delivers a game that balances money spent with satisfaction gained.

The drawbacks to the Xbox 360 version will depend on your history with Minecraft. Outside of some draw distance lag, there are few faults from a technical standpoint.  If you’re a player on the PC side, you will definitely miss the various mods and custom skins, as the closed network and modification lockouts on the console platform do not allow them as of yet. Additionally, the lack of dedicated servers means that you’ll either play solo or have to coordinate with friends to play together over Xbox Live, a noticeable drawback as well. The advantage of purchasing the Xbox 360 version is playing with your friends who can only enjoy it over a console, or if you have a desire to experience Minecraft on your HDTV, which is definitely not a bad thing. At 1600 MSP (approximately $20 US), experienced players might not be able to justify the price, however those new to Minecraft will still get their money’s worth.

In conclusion, Minecraft on the Xbox 360 is a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging experience that lives up to a lot of the fanfare it has received. Those who favor the PC version might not like some of the limitations that are endemic to console porting, however new players will easily get hooked and immersed in this vastly fun and absurdly addictive gameplay. From my own experience as a first-time player, I can say that Minecraft won me over within the first few hours and I have since spent many more on building my dream house out of stone blocks. It’s not a game for everyone, but Minecraft is an experience not to be missed by anyone who wants to try a differnet kind of sandbox game. Highly recommended.

 

Here’s the rundown:

+ Distinctive and charming visual style
+ Engaging and highly addictive gameplay that you can easily sink hours into
+ Fantastic sound production and musical score
- Lacks the mods and custom skins that are abundant in the PC version
- Lack of dedicated servers prevents others from playing in your world if you’re offline
- Some minor draw distance issues as the game loads your user-created content

9 and 9.5 represent the pinnacle of the genre, a game that defines what that genre should be about. These scores are for games that you not only feel would be worth your purchase, but you would actually try to convince your friends to buy them as well.

Minecraft was developed by 4J Studios and published by Mojang and Microsoft Studios. It will be released on May 9, 2012 at the MSRP 1,600 Microsoft Points. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.