by Brian Robbins

 Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, I’m sure you’ve heard of the mega-successful title Minecraft. Just this past year there’s been a marketing frenzy with all sorts of Minecraft toys, posters and T-shirts. Minecraft has now become a household name, similar to Pokemon and Skylanders, much to the dismay of plenty of confused parents. The experience has been pretty odd for the casual gamer as well, since Minecraft was first in an open beta for the PC and you could actually pay for the game while it was still in development. Finally, developer Mojang and creator Markus Perrson aka Notch released the fully finished game on the PC in November of 2011. The game was released to Xbox Live Arcade last summer and finally in June of 2013 it had a full retail disc.

What confuses people the most about Minecraft is what it is exactly, but just imagine a survival based LEGO type sandbox. You’ll face off against monsters; utilize a deep and robust crafting system and most of all the have the ability to make any structure your heart desires. . .  or that you have the time for. There have been plenty of times in my experience with the game (from way back in the beginning of 2011) that have left me in awe. I’ve seen a range from custom cities to famous landmarks like the St. Louis Arch or the Empire State Building. It’s embarrassing to say but my friend and I even recreated the raid dungeon Karazhan from Blizzard’s World of Warcraft (nerds!).

But before you start any of this you’ll first want to learn the basics. Luckily, with the Xbox 360’s version of the game they’ve included a very helpful and intuitive tutorial level before you start your own world. It will cover the basics of digging, growing, combat, structures and even the basics about lighting to ward off potential enemies of the night. If you’ve never played Minecraft, I highly recommend you start here. Heck, I found it helpful as a veteran of the PC version just because the controls on the Xbox 360 controller takes some time getting used to.

As you finally start the beginning of the game you’ll find yourself stranded and very alone. It’s literally a race against time to gather materials to build your first house and get situated before nightfall. Once the moon and the stars are out, you’re in for a long night. Monsters such as Spiders, Skeletons and even Zombies come out to play and harass the player. This adds up to a very harrowing adventure as a player and more times than not can feel very rewarding as you set up your first home base.

This doesn’t make you helpless though. You can craft weapons of various quality to combat the creatures. Take for instance a sword, you’ll need to chop down wood from trees to craft a crafting table, then collect various supplies to either make a low quality wooden sword or a basic stone sword. The beauty of the game is that there are so many options and choices available to the player. Just don’t expect the combat to be as refined as say Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.

As the title suggests, you can dig and mine various materials. In fact I would say this is where a majority of the beginning of the game will play out. The best crafting materials are often underground, such as the pivotal Diamond that is the Holy Grail of any Minecraft player. I will say that if you can’t stand doing the same thing over and over again, this can be an uneventful part of the game. Though if you’re lucky or steadfast you’ll eventually uncover a rare crafting material or a lost cavern to explore.

That’s what the great thing about Minecraft is: even the most mundane or boring parts of the game can lead to something extraordinary. With such a vast area to explore (though the Xbox 360’s version of the game’s map is indeed smaller, yet still gigantic) you’re bound to find something to do. One of the best part of the Xbox 360’s version of the game is the split-screen Multiplayer. You can have 4 people on one screen all at the same time. Sure, it might be hard to read certain text on the TV but it’s still fun to have your friends over and share the experience with you, or heck, even online.

If you’ve played the game on the PC there’s no real reason to pick it up on Xbox 360. The various things exclusive to the PC game do make it superior, such as free character skins and quicker updates but that’s not to say the Xbox 360’s version is a black sheep. It’s highly rewarding and an incredibly different game than any you’ve played before. Again, if you’ve somehow avoided playing this game for this long get off the computer and immediately purchase this timepiece of a title. Also, come to Slackers and pick up a Minecraft T-shirt, poster or  Creeper action figure!