Review by neonreaper

Reviewed: 09/22/10 | Updated: 10/18/10

What is Minecraft? Obsessive, ugly, personal, brutally addictive, fun.

Simply put, I purchased Minecraft this morning to check it out, started up a game while fluffing my laundry for ten minutes, and then rolled into work 3 hours late. It's addictive as hell. It's also not even in beta yet, so the price is 50% off and the game is this good without even being finished yet.

Minecraft has been getting quite a lot of buzz lately, from Penny Arcade to Gamefaqs, which has driven quite a few people to check it out, either by buying it for $14, taking advantage of a free weekend, or just checking out youtube. I guess the quickest way to describe it, would be something like "a first-person 1995 Bear Gryllz zombie survival fantasy Legos adventure". And you read that, and you might be skeptical. Zombies? Over done, especially by internet types! Or that I've tried to throw together a bunch of funny sounding terms in lieu of trying to really tell you the game. It might remind you of Scribblenauts, being silly and zany in concept as opposed to focusing on the fundamentals, so let me assure you, Minecraft focuses on good fundamentals.

You start off in a randomly generated outdoor area, and really I think these are insanely giant landmasses, effectively infinite as you'll never touch all ends of it. The first thing you notice... these graphics suck! Yes, they are graphics straight out of 1995, it'll take you a few minutes to become accustomed to them, but they serve the gameplay well. You have a little stub representing your hand, and you can use it to knock down some dirt and wood from the terrain and trees, respectively. You then bring up your inventory screen, which allows you to craft these items into other tools, and then use those tools to craft more advanced tools, and so on. Before you know it, you have a sword, an axe, armor, and plenty of other things.

Night falls swiftly, and with night comes danger. Zombies and other creatures seek to do you harm, so you'll need a shelter. You can barely scrape one together by the time night falls, and you'll have zombies banging against it until the sun is fully out again. A harrowing first night, huddled by your lonesome self. After this, you break free and explore elsewhere, mining more materials, crafting more items, expanding your shelter. You feel alone and at the mercy of the land, but also eager to explore and harvest.

As you develop your abode, it soon becomes a fortress, or a whimsical palace dedicated to your glory, or an underground cave system that can put dwarven creations from Lord of the Rings to shame. However you feel like altering the land and protecting yourself, you will be able to work to that end. I've already seen a floating island in the sky. The main Minecraft page shows someone having built a rollercoaster. People find giant mountains on their world and recreate some of the Blackrock Mountain dungeons from WoW. It becomes a fairly personal experience, putting together your own little world within the world of Minecraft. You know those exercises where there's a picture of a guy, and on the other side, some menace (zombies), and you're asked to use a picture editor (probably Paint) to alter the picture to defend yourself? Here is the 3D world equivalent of this.

It's unfair, really. This game is ugly and unassuming. The mechanics aren't fluid and you have to probably find some early help external to the game, as it's not clear how to make things. And yet, it's addictive. Addictive as any game, really. And we're still in the alpha phase of development. Multiplayer exists, but there's not really much of a zombie danger, as damage isn't coded into multiplayer yet. But yeah, not only is this game like crack already, but you can set up a server and other people can play and see how you co-exist and create your own structures. The amount of depth possible here, even with such a simple focus on gameplay mechanics, is amazing to consider.

Not being quite complete yet, the game has some issues. The Alpha version server was crushed by the attention from Penny Arcade and GameFAQs, so there was some downtime in the availability of this game. To compensate for the people wanting to play, the weekend was deemed a free play weekend by the guy behind the game, a nice gesture and a smart way to lure new players in. There are also some complaints about people losing sound, a bit of an issue as losing sound kills the atmosphere of the night portion of the game. Multiplayer isn't fully supported yet, either, though you still get to play it, as previously mentioned. It's hard to complain about a game that isn't finished yet, so I understand there are issues with what I'm saying here. I will certainly check back in and update the review as the game is updated.

For $14 (9.99 Euros), you get a brutally addictive game that is still a ways off from completion, but you will get all future updates for free. As you can probably tell, I've only played a few hours worth, and I can't quite go full monty for a game that isn't complete... but this is a pure and awesome gaming experience already.


Having played this game for a bit longer now, I can safely say this game remains engrossing and yet full of potential. We've seen people create full blown RPG worlds, with dungeons and castles and plains and sky islands, as well as underwater glass houses, glass kingdoms, working computer chips, and a whole host of youtube videos that are impressive, delightful, funny, and all of the above. Unintended humor abounds as someone tries to make a fireplace and burns down an elaborate mansion, and you have a hard time feeling bad for the person because you know that rebuilding the place will be that much more fun.

Multiplayer is still a work in progress, but a quietly kept server of friends can lead to a fun world full of simple and goofy ideas as well as complex labors of love and creativity. Minecraft captures the thrill of Legos in the modern era, even if the graphics don't initially seem so modern.

You'll find yourself invested in the creative potential of the game, with better combat and multiplayer survival, additional monster types, and wherever else your imagination takes you. I don't really want to speak of what the game should and should not encompass once it makes it's full release version, but this could go from something that kills a couple of months, to a game with truly endless opportunities.

There are tools created for Minecraft that allow you to alter your character's appearance, which isn't terribly impressive but it's pretty cool in the same sense that the character editor for 3-D Dot Game Heroes is cool. I made a bright orange grim reaper for my internet handle, other people have gone with homages to video game or comic heroes, ninjas, etc. When you interact in a persistent world such as a Minecraft server, it's pretty cool to have a unique bit of personality with your avatar.

Another cool tool is one that takes a picture of your Minecraft world, and let's you look at it top-down, or using isometric views, in order to see all you have done and how it stacks up to the world. I'm sure there even more little programs and tools that deal with Minecraft, and many more to come.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Minecraft (Classic) (US, 05/10/09)

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