Review: Minecraft (Xbox One)

Posted on February 12, 2018

Sure, Minecraft has been around since 2011, but it’s never too late for a good review, right? In particular, lots of customers and friends of Game Truck Australia are still asking about Minecraft – what is and how it works, and we are well positioned to help contribute to that conversation. Furthermore, lots of changes have happened to Minecraft since its first release, and we can also talk about how it works in Game Truck party.

Minecraft is without doubt one of the most influential games in history: its impact can hardly be overestimated. Almost every person under the age of 20 has either played it with various levels of devotion or knows people who have. Among kids of a certain age group (around 7-10) it inspires a lot of excitement, and for this demographic it is always a hot pick for a Game Truck party.

So why all the fuss? Lots of people comment that its pixellated aesthetic looks a lot like the games we played as kids – it feels very simple, a bit rough around the edges, and not really very polished. But these appearances are deceptive: underlying this is a very elegant game design which caters for players at all skills levels and with all levels of interest. It is easy to learn but hard to master: you can create, destroy, fight, and weave a kind of digital magic that no other game has ever fully achieved, before or since.

Minecraft is perhaps best described as digital LEGO: players are provided with a wide variety of resources that they can craft and build with. At its simplest and most accessible, ‘Creative’ mode simply provides you with all of these resources straight off the bat: you can use wood, stone, iron and diamond; bow and arrow, swords, armour; wings to help you fly, potions for invisibility or flight; fireworks, beacons, crops, bookshelves, beds and minecarts with the potential to become truly impressive rollercoasters. At its most arcane, the game allows you to build portals into other worlds, the End or the Nether, to explore or battle weird and wonderful creatures like the Ender Dragon, Endermen, Ghasts, and so on. In this Creative mode Minecraft is not so much of a game: it is more of a sandbox, as it lacks the structure and direction to truly classify as a game. This mode allows for some amazing projects, though.

The elegant design of the game becomes more apparent in Survival Mode, which is the classic Minecraft experience. The story here is that you find yourself in a strange land, procedurally generated (meaning that it is different for every single player), with the sun rising on the horizon. Your first challenge is to break down a tree and collect wooden blocks with which to craft planks, which you use to craft a Crafting Table. From there you can build a wooden axe which cuts down trees quicker that your bare hands, then a shovel to dig into the earth, then a pickaxe to break into the stone underneath, which then allow you to build items from stone which lasts longer. The main task on your first night is to build a house and weapons to protect yourself from the ‘mobs’ – spiders, skeletons, and zombies – who will come to get you. Within this structure almost anything is possible, and Minecraft puts no limits on the imagination.

From this core Creative/Survival experience, Minecraft has expanded in a number of ways. A relatively new addition, ‘Minigames’, allows short competitive-style games for multiple players, including Spleef or Snowballs, which requires you to dig out the platform below your opponent to make them fall to their fate. In addition to the vanilla Minecraft look and feel, new textures create a world which looks like Halo, or Skyrim, or Adventure Time. New skins make players look like their favourite characters from Star Wars, Adventure Time, or a number of other franchises – much like the skin options in Rocket League I don’t quite get this, but kids absolutely love it. With all of these different visual and gameplay options, Minecraft is a very rich experience for a relatively low price (unless you count all those add-ons).

Just a fraction of the skins available in newer versions of Minecraft.

There is no doubt that Minecraft is the core gaming experience for  Game Truck party. The only time I won’t suggest it immediately is for a group of kids at 13 or 14 years of age – they have often grown out of it by then and don’t find it quite cool enough. (In such cases, Trials Fusion or Rocket League are great options.) The great thing about Minecraft is that it allows for split-screen multiplayer, which means that up to four players can play at once on the same screen, in the same world – this allows for excellent teamwork. We manage things so that kids choose Creative or Survival and establish some firm ground rules ensuring everyone has a great time and there is no griefing or other cause for unhappiness. As always our top priority is pro-social gaming, and Minecraft is the perfect game to facilitate this experience. Sometimes a party can play Minecraft for a full two hours, but we are also able to mix in other games as well.

All up, Minecraft is not only a history-making game and a cultural phenomenon, it is the core gaming experience for a Game Truck party. It’s difficult to overestimate its impact, and as the Minecraft generation enters university and the workforce we may see a different paradigm of thinking and learning begin to take hold. In the meantime, it’s the perfect thing for the ‘best party ever’!

Want to talk about how Minecraft might work for your next birthday part or event? Call Chad on 0433 318 001 or email – see you in the Truck!

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