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Minecraft Review

Minecraft Review

Publisher: Mojang Productions
Platform: PC
UK Price (as reviewed): £16.95 (inc VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $25.99 (ex tax)

'This isn't a game,' says Clive, watching me play Minecraft from the desk next to mine. Again, I tell him he's wrong - it is fun and it is interesting.

'But you're just smashing blocks and...clicking on them and...what's the point?' says Harry, who has loitered over and started watching in the kind of way that suggests he's already decided how good Minecraft isn't.

'Great,' I think to myself, while placing down the last blocks in the outer wall I've constructed, 'I've got to defend Minecraft from both of them now.'

I realise that this is stupid, by the way; there's little point in reviewing a game for which 'release' is just an arbitrarily placed flag in the ground. Minecraft has already sold four million copies, has been in a widely playable and constantly updated beta for more than a year and has been the topic of more memes, videos, explorations and music videos than any other indie game we could mention.

Minecraft Review
Image by SamJB2

In other words, the fact that the version number has just ticked over to v1.0 means nothing other than that you're probably only going to read this review if you've already bought the game. Don't worry, though; if all you're looking for is a bit of purchase justification then you've come to the right place. Minecraft is great, isn't it?

If you're the exception that proves the rule though, then it's best to start at the top and say that Minecraft is a building game that consists of two modes - Creative and Survival. The first is most easily described as 'digital Lego' and involves nothing more than a huge sandbox of bricks that can be destroyed and reassembled into incredibly complex constructions, from simple castles to working computers.

To some people that sounds boring, but to others it's the most exciting thing since man first decided to run slices of sharpened steel through baked yeast-flour mixtures. Make up your own mind which you think it is and then don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Minecraft Review
Image by Dan Boothby

The other mode is where the real substance lies, however. If Creative is 'digital Lego', then Survival is nothing short of 'digital Robinson Crusoe' - a procedurally generated, block-built world where you must fend for yourself. Since Minecraft is a video game, Survival Mode doesn't offer a completely straight-faced simulation for you to explore; there are zombies and skeletons and... a dragon!

It's the dragon that marks the biggest change to the beta versions of Minecraft, as venturing into the beast's other dimensional domain provides new endgame content, bringing the adventure to a close. Reaching the end - which is also the name of the dragon's homeland - is no mean feat and requires both extensive patience and knowledge of how Minecraft works.

Which brings us to: The Problem with Minecraft.