What’s with this Minecraft Malarky?

Last Wednesday owners of Microsoft’s gaming console finally got to experience this strange little game that has not only taken the PC (Macs as well, hell even Linux users have tasted the forbidden fruit) by storm but has created a sub genre of games revelling in the contradiction of simplicity and the ability to build a virtual microprocessor (why you may ask – well why not?). Boasting blocky graphics that would make even a true die hard retro geek dab their eyes with a hankie, Minecraft for the Xbox has broken nearly every record that an Arcade title can. Profitable within a hour of release, this sort of success makes many people wonder if this is nothing but a fad – doomed to live life as the Viva Pinata of 2012. So, what exactly is all this malarky about then?

Minecraft is not an original premesis, “borrowing” from several different game and genres, throwing them into a large ceramic dish and mixing them all together with generous helpings of sugar, zombies and pigs. The basic idea is to build and survive (at least in the Xbox version) – simple really? But what looks like on the surface a Lego style game, after several hours of even casual play you find another game on a totally different level. Yes, you build but like many of those annoying Facebook games you can also “farm”, whether animals or “crops”. Head off and mine resources to improve your defences, equipment and buckets. Survive the night when the beasties come out, (or even just sleep it all away) then head off into the wilderness in search of that pig you really want to ride off the cliff with. But the beasties are just confined to the nighttime surface, strike a motherlode and the next thing you know your little blocky man is high tailing it out of the cavern with a bunch of rather narked mobs in close pursuit.

Oh and include minecarts and primitive electronics on the list…

Thing is, Minecraft is an anomaly – the many parts of the game have been done better before, plus the current game on the Xbox has no genuine ending. But the sum of all those parts is probably one of the best games to grace the Xbox for a long time. Graphically it’s no Skyrim, likewise it has a story that makes Dark Souls look like Game of Thrones (okay, no story) and objectives within the game are non existent. Yet somehow this game draws you in beyond anything else.

Now throw in multiplayer, with up to eight players (or four split screen)….

Clean up on aisle three!

Thing is there are lots of features that are included in the PC version that are missing from the current Xbox release, but there is a promise to update (for free) until both versions are near identical. Perhaps the minor downside of having a fixed map size should also be mentioned but in truth this is an ever so minor flaw in what is a spot on port.

I’ll sign off with a word of warning – those bloody pigs really don’t like throwing themselves of high cliffs, so it’s best to dig a hole.

You’ll thank me later…

– Myk ( t: @myklewis )

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