Reviews
Minecraft
Playstation Vita Version

By Malcolm Inglis - March 27th, 2015

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By now everyone (including your Mom) has probably heard of Minecraft, a game that has transcended beyond what would appear at first glance to be a simple open-world sandbox game to become an international phenomenon. Millions have played it on PC, then on console and now on tablets and handhelds, with the latest delivery platform being the PlayStation Vita.

Despite being playable on almost all gaming devices and millions of YouTube channels full of Minecraft “Let’s Play” videos, I myself have had very limited experience with this title. I had originally played the demo on PC and after a short play-through I kind of found myself at a loss, wondering what the point was. I just didn’t get it; what was the appeal to this low poly-count game with no set objectives? Now, several years later, I’m going to give it another go with 4J Studios’ Minecraft: Playstation Vita Edition to see if I can find the magic behind this game.

After launching the game, I was presented with the options to Create a New World or go to the tutorial; I opted for the latter, so that I could get the hang of things. So, with that, my character (played in the first person perspective) was dropped into a wooded area with a few stone walls (and what appeared to be the beginnings of a house). Soothing music began playing in the background and I began the tutorial, following the action prompts (like walking, running and punching things) to gather supplies. After punching a few trees for wood and building a work bench and then punching some more trees and making a wooden axe (which did not seem very sturdy), I chopped some trees with my newly-made axe to make a wooden pick-axe (which also did not seem very sturdy). I then used that pick-axe to mine for some stones, which I was then instructed to use to make a furnace. After spending ten minutes trying to find a furnace option on the workbench or crafting menu I gave up and had to turn to an online tutorial to find out how to do it. This seems to be one of the driving forces behind this games’ online video presence: tutorials on how to play the damned thing.

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Ah, inventory. How I love thee!

I decided to take a break from the tutorial prompts and just explore the area, instead. I followed around some butterflies and walked through a nice stream and then found some other animals – pigs and sheep that I then decided to punch, as one tends to do. The animals let out bleats as I chased and punched them until they dropped meat or wool for me to collect. I also found a horse and was asked via prompt if I wanted to learn more about donkeys and horses? Sure, why not? I have got nothing better to do here. The game informed me that “horses and donkeys are found mainly in the open plains. Mules can be bred from a Donkey and a Horse, but are infertile themselves…” Well, er, there’s some useful knowledge to share with your friends! The mini-tutorial continued on, letting me know that I could tame the horse and even ride it – which sounded awesome. So I got on the horse, and after getting bucked off a few times I decided to subdue the beast by punching it. I never got to ride the horse – but I did gain some leather (but unfortunately no meat). Of course, the tutorial also informed me that meat is an item that one needs to consume, otherwise one’s health bar will start to deplete and mine was almost on empty.

I figured I learned enough from the tutorial so I went back to the main menu and opted to create a new world. Selecting this option presents a sub-menu that gives the player the choice to play in either a survival or a creative mode. In the creative mode you can float around the map by pressing the jump button twice and you are given unlimited building materials to work with; you are also able to create whatever you wish in this pixelated realm. I created a giant obsidian black spire as high as I could in the sky and then punched straight through a mountain to create a tunnel to the other side. In creative mode, you are given free rein to build and destroy the world to make whatever you want; these worlds can then be shared with other players and, in turn, you can explore their creations.

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Is this what Iron Man looks like in Minecraft? Maybe!

The other mode, survival, sets you on a randomly-generated square of land where you must act quickly to gather food (so that you can stay healthy) and materials (such as wood) to use to build a basic shelter before night sets. The reason you need to do this quickly is because at night (Minecraft has a working day/night cycle) the bad guys come out and attack you. The enemies range from spiders to skeletons – to the famous creepers (which you have probably seen on Minecraft t-shirts and other merchandise). Once you survive the night, you are free to explore and gather more items to create tools and maybe add an extension on your house with windows and functioning doors. I could start to see the appeal of the game and began to enjoy myself; the exploration aspect, the grinding for materials, the sense of accomplishment from crafting items and taming the wild frontier… oh damn! It’s 3am and I have got to get up and go to work in the morning!

Overall the Vita is an ideal home for Minecraft. If you’ve never given the game a try, it’s easy to pick up and play at any time. The blocky graphics work well on the small screen and you can quickly reference a tutorial on your computer or tablet as you play. Just be warned that if you can get past the basic look of the game and the lack of a real premise, you might find yourself getting addicted to the surprisingly deep game-play. If you have played Minecraft before and can’t get enough of it, this is a great way to have the full version on the go.

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