We review Minecraft Pocket Edition, the popular PC block-builder that has built its way onto the Xperia Play
Few games in recent memory have managed to attract the attention and adulation that has surrounded the indie smash hit Minecraft. This entirely unlikely PC project has grown to become one of the biggest cult classics in the history of the video game medium, despite its intentionally blocky visuals and aimless premise.
But it’s that lack of a traditional objective that makes Minecraft so compelling – just type the name into YouTube and you’ll be greeted with a seemingly endless collection of fan-made videos, where wondrous constructions and creations are showcased.
Minecraft Pocket Edition manages to replicate much of the wonder and brilliance of its PC counterpart, with some notable caveats. Before we blunder into what’s missing from this pint-sized port, let’s first focus on the good stuff – of which there’s plenty.
Firstly, the game looks almost identical to the home computer version. The blocky landscape may seem simplistic at first, but when you stroll around the randomly-generated environment you realise that the scope is awe-inspiring. Massive mountains rise up out of deep valleys, and should you choose to diligently climb one of these hills, you’ll be presented with a vista as epic as any you’ve seen in any other game.
The next big plus is the controls. This Android version of Minecraft is currently exclusive to the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play and the phone’s dedicated gaming interface is put to very good use. You move around with the 8-way D-pad, while your aim is controlled by the right-hand analogue touch pad. The L and R shoulder triggers control destruction and construction respectively, and the face buttons allow you to pick which item you currently hold.
Items include building blocks, ladders, torches and flowers, and you have an unlimited supply of all of these goods. Using these, you can make pretty much anything your heart desires. Everything from a small hut to a massive, sprawling tower block is possible. The only limitations are your imagination and the amount of time you have going spare. You can also dig through the landscape, fashioning it as you wish.
In this regard, Minecraft Pocket Edition manages to capture what makes the PC edition so addictive: the ability to create your own world. However, there are some big omissions from this mobile marvel and while it should be pointed out that they will most likely be added over time, their absence means that Minecraft veterans may wish to resist a purchase right away.
First up is the lack of the survival mode. This is the PC edition’s only real concession to a traditional video game ‘goal’. You are placed in a random world and expected to do your best to stay alive for as long as possible. Because the survival mode isn’t included here, some may consider Minecraft Pocket Edition to be half-finished.
Secondly, there’s no online mode as yet. You can create a local multiplayer game over Wi-Fi and co-operatively construct a world with very close friends, but at the moment there’s no way of expanding your building skills on a global level.
It’s worth stressing that Minecraft Pocket Edition is very much a work in progress, just like the computer version, in fact. Features are going to be drip-fed into the game over a period of time, so it could be argued if you pledge your financial support now, the developer is likely to be more inclined to add in the missing components more quickly.
Of course, it could also be argued that Android users are essentially being used as beta testers, providing vital feedback before the iPhone version of the game is released. Depending on your viewpoint, you can either feel smug or aggrieved at that notion.
Whatever your perspective, Minecraft Pocket Edition remains an amazing achievement. It’s easily one of the most engaging and addictive games we’ve yet played on the Xperia Play or any mobile handset, for that matter. Yes, it feels half-finished and yes, it’s very expensive when compared to with Android Market brethren, but few games can hold your attention for as long as this one.
If you’re lucky enough to own an Xperia Play handset, this is an essential download – and if you find yourself balking at the price, just remember that Minecraft Pocket Edition in its current form is just a taste of what’s in store. This is a game that will grow and grow, and being involved in one of the most wildly successful indie hits of all time is fun in itself.