Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition

Do you know why men are more obsessed with gizmos, gadgets and modern technology than (most) women are? It’s down to something called occasionally referred to as ‘sharper spear complex’ – mankind’s desire to create better, stronger and more efficient weapons. It’s a trait trapped in our DNA from our long distant ancestors who would spend their days devising better tools to hunt with. Minecraft draws upon this desire hidden inside us and it does so magnificently.

It starts off with using your bare hands to break a tree into pieces. From that a crafting table can be made which allows the creation of primitive wooden tools. Then comes a furnace which is not only used to melt down raw materials but also to cook food. The tutorial – which wasn’t present in the PC original – gets you to up to speed with all of these basics and finishes with the task of building a house.

You see, the pixilated world of Minecraft isn’t a safe one – zombies, skeletons, spiders and more freely roam the colourful environments, and at night they come out in full force. There’s no rule to say that you can’t go out at night, but when starting out it’s best to stay indoors until sunlight.

In fact, there are no rules at all. This is a game without a plot, cut-scenes, checkpoints or chapters. Want to spend the best part of a day creating a farm with crops and cattle? Go for it. Want to sail around the world and see what’s out there? Be Mojang’s guest. Minecraft takes the best elements that gaming has to offer – exploration, experimentation and creation – and lets you do as you please.

It’s because of the open-ended structure that everybody who plays Minecraft is going to have their own fascinating tales to tell. There’s the time we tucked ourselves in for the night, only to be woken up by a skeleton at the end of the bed because we forgot to close the front door. It’s hard to recall the last time a game sent our pulse sky-rocketing. Then there’s the time that we constructed a wooden house, only for a flaming zombie to visit. That’s flaming as in on fire, there. This is also the first time that we discovered that Minecraft is a pyromaniac’s delight.

Sound plays an important part in the experience too. When mining underground the sound of trickling water and shuffling zombies can be occasionally heard to help guide you on your way. Waking up after a night’s sleep only to hear an assortment of enemies swarming around outside is, frankly, nerve-racking.

Memorable moments like these are plentiful. The first time you come across a cave and discover gold feels like a genuine achievement, and not just one that pops up on your screen. That said, the achievements do add a lot to the experience. They provide a challenge and give you something to focus on. The achievements for baking bread and making a cake aren’t too taxing or time consuming, but the one for setting up a mine cart track and travelling over 500m requires both time and effort. That iron ore isn’t going to mine itself.

You can, however, ask a friend to help you – Minecraft can be played online with others. There’s a split-screen mode as well, but be warned if you’re yet to join the HD revolution – this mode can’t be played without a HD TV.

Without a story or structure some may find Minecraft a little pointless. That’s fair enough. Those that fall for it though, are going to fall for it hard – this is one of those games that can make an hour’s worth of play seem like mere minutes. Get some coffee on the go and let Minecraft dig a tunnel into your heart.

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