As fun as single-player is, it's when you're playing online with friends that Minecraft's mechanics really shine. When you generate a world, you can select an 'online' option that will allow other players to join you. When you're mining, building, and fighting off monsters with other people, it's loads more fun. You can even play local multiplayer via split-screen: just hit the start button on an additional controller to jump into someone's game instantly.
Working together to build a bridge across a river, or tunnelling deep into the caves hidden beneath the world, is madly addictive, and a uniquely tranquil, slow-paced alternative to the majority of online games. Playing while reclining in a chair with a controller in your hand and a headset is a much more satisfying multiplayer experience than on PC.
From the shared panic of seeing a Creeper hissing at the door of your house - an enemy that explodes when you go near it, potentially destroying hours of hard work - to the feeling of accomplishment after building a cloud-tickling tower, it's one of the most compelling online experiences on Xbox. To show your creations off, you can take screenshots at any time and share them on Facebook by pausing the game and pressing Y.
It's just a shame there are no persistent servers. Once the creator of a world logs off, the level is saved, but the other players are booted out. Hopefully future updates - which will be numerous and free - will add some kind of dedicated server system.
But when you consider the logistics of hosting millions of levels for hundreds of thousands of players, it seems unlikely. On PC, servers are handled independently by individuals; on Xbox Live, there'd have to be one huge central hub, paid for and maintained by Mojang or Microsoft.
Overall, though, Minecraft's transition to consoles is a success. Being able to play the game from the comfort of your sofa, and easily dive into friends' games over Xbox Live, is a delight, and the streamlined crafting system is smartly designed. Some features from the PC version are notably missing, such as Creative mode - which gives you infinite materials to build - and the RPG-like experience points system, but expect these to be included in future updates.
Whether you're mining, crafting, building, or fighting - either alone, or with friends - there's nothing quite like Minecraft. An accomplished, streamlined port that's a perfect fit for Xbox 360.
- Fiendishly addictive
- Superb new crafting system
- Open-ended gameplay
- No persistent servers
- Some PC features missing