If you’ve been living in a cave for the past couple years, you might need bringing up to speed on Minecraft. As the name suggests, Minecraft is a game requiring mining and crafting in a simple three-dimensional world, with randomly generated blocks of many different types available that you can manipulate to your liking. With very simple but effective presentation, the charming 8-bit themed environment allows a lot of room for imagination and leeway when it comes to being productive with its resources. Creativity, as well as improvisation are crucial to get the most out of Minecraft.

The game is very much one of two halves, with a survival and creative mode the ways to play. Creative mode is just completely open, giving you access to all the blocks and items in the game as well as the ability to fly. With this degree of flexibility you are left to your own devices to experiment with anything you want, whether it be large or small-scale structures, block based reproductions of real world landmarks or even an intricate working calculator through clever use of Redstone, which is essential Minecraft’s electrical system.

Minecraft

Whilst creative mode is incredibly addictive – and you will lose many hours to it, survival mode is what I would call the true Minecraft experience, with mining and crafting in the middle of nowhere at its core. Collecting and crafting a small set of tools and resources to start, you will gradually build up your dirt shack into a massive fortress reaching from bedrock to the sky. If you are looking for a “point” to Minecraft, it does have progression you can optionally go through, which includes several dungeon style environments and increasingly stronger mobs to fight, which will ultimately lead to fight with the Ender Dragon – followed by a credits screen. You can also ignore the main quest completely and just take part in the multiple activities offered by the game. Go hunting, farming, fighting, building, potion brewing, or much more if you have the time. There is also a simple levelling system that is fed by kills, mining, breeding animals, and several other productive tasks that you can then use to upgrade weapons, tools, and armour. Anything that prolongs your existence within the game.

Where the game truly comes alive is through multiplayer, with the same experience available with other players. Multiplayer works online or ad-hoc with up to 4 total players, which although lower than the console versions still offers tremendous fun. I was impressed with the amount of server options available to a host such as allowing your friend’s friends to drop into your game or require an invitation and approval in order to break your blocks. It’s really great for people who don’t trust anybody and perhaps just want to show off their world without any worries of people causing grief or destroying their masterpieces. The last thing you want to do is to build something truly epic, only for someone to absolutely decimate it through some shrewd use of TNT…

Minecraft

The game features cross-save with the PlayStation 3, allowing worlds to be transferred between that and the Vita and works just fine, albeit a bit on the slow side. There were some occasional issues with inventory saving on transferred saves, playing “offline” appears to manage this without a problem and I’m sure 4J Studios will be fixing it very soon. Compared to the Dualshock 3 and 4 controls schemes I found the Vita controls worked very well with the directional buttons used in place of the missing bumpers and button analogy, and using the touchscreen is also an option with menus and items. There is no use of the rear touch pad.

Visually, the game runs as you would expect on the Vita. While it’s not running at a silky smooth 30fps like the PlayStation 3 counterpart, Minecraft Vita is still pretty consistent in terms of frame rate and never gets to an unplayable amount of choppiness. There is a noticeable frame rate drop when the game is loading up larger environments, in multiplayer or when a lot going on at the same time but for the most parts it’s all very decent and never unplayable. Vita render distance is a little on the short side, which is understandable given the disparity between the Vita and the PS3 although with the size of the Vita’s screen it’s probably a wise compromise. The only real problem I had with any of the usual gameplay due to the smaller screen/render distance was fighting the Enderdragon and other long distance enemies, as they would occasionally go out of my render distance and disappear for a while. For those that are not fans of the 8-bit visual style, there are texture packs available which can offer different look to the blocks, including a more natural look if that’s more your thing. They will still be blocky though!

MinecraftMenus are very to-the-point and are very much in tune with the minimal style of the whole game. I found the tab based crafting system used in the Vita (and console) version of Minecraft makes the game more accessible and convenient than it ever was on PC. All you have to worry about is getting the right resources, no need to memorize or look up 3×3 crafting formations. The inventory and chests screens sometimes felt pretty small and cramped since they are the same ones used on the big screen console versions of Minecraft, but it still works just as well and I only ever had trouble telling the difference between the various types of stones or sand resources at a glance. Most of the available items and resources are very colourful and unique from one another so confusion doesn’t arise too often.

The sounds of Minecraft are also quite brilliant, the soundtrack is a perfect mix of relaxing and spooky to fit the games alone in the wilderness gameplay. Combined with a great use of sound effects can be your queue to know what is around the corner, or not. You could hear the groan of a zombie to know a dungeon is right through a stone face, or not hear a thing until the hiss of a creeper comes crawling up, decimating the immediate area upon exploding.

I have played Minecraft on multiple platforms over the past four years and for countless hours, and I am happy to say I am still completely addicted to it. Just this first week I have put some solid hours into the Vita version alone and I’m still always thinking of what to do next, creatively or in my survival adventures. The Pocket Edition has demonstrated that Minecraft on the go is very relevant and incredibly popular, having outsold every other version. Given that the Vita version is essentially the PlayStation 3 version in your hands it’s easily the most complete portable Minecraft experience. The trophies also allow for a pretty straightforward platinum which I think is a great motivation to try out different parts of the game.

The Vita edition manages to fit all the core gameplay, charm, and creativity of its big screen counterparts into the palm of your hand, anywhere you go and has almost endless lasting appeal. Certainly a must have for all Vita-owning Minecraft fans, and for those that like to be creative. If you are a non Vita-owning Minecraft fan, it’s arguably worth buying a Vita for.

Minecraft

REVIEW OVERVIEW
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Better know online as kacboy. Canadian 17 year old. Writer at The Vita Lounge. Has an interesting perspective.
  • Phelan

    Ok… I think that what I am about to say is like rising my own death flag but…

    Frankly speaking I don’t understand why minecraft is so popular. I really don’t, sorry and please don’t kill me. I’m just thinking out loud, mkay?

    Does it have any kind of plot? I mean you mentioned quests… but other than surviving or gathering X resources I kinda can’t imagine what quests there might be. I mean Minecraft always kinda reminded me Dungeon Keeper (with that mining :P) which I loved…. I know that it’s not the same, it is much more than that…. or maybe it is just completly different. But still personally I kinda can’t see any point in most of stuff you can do in Minecraft.

    Don’t get me wrong… when I see stuff that people made inside Minecraft I can appreciate their hard work and passion. But I can’t understand “why”

    I mean sure it is all about being creative… but what’s the point? I mean imagine what those people could achieve if instead of Minecraft they would play with gamemaking software like AGF or RPG Maker. Seeing passion of those people I am quite sure that some of them would make great games. Many of those people are capable of thinking outside of the box, and design things which require enormous sense of 3d-perception. Why not play with blender instead? Why not design in Unity or GameMaker instead? See the point?

    I mean as far as I can understand Minecraft is all about “creating” right? Why not burn that passion for things which might bring you later on profit… or at least will teach you something useful? I mean really… to me it seems that some of those guys are kinda wasting their talents. It’s like giving monkey wrong set of tools. Like giving stick instead of kalashnikov 😛

    But really as someone who spent countless hours tinkering in game making software… I keep wondering… “man some of those guys are geniuses, they would do much better job than me if they would be playing with this and that instead”

    But yeah… it’s not really, that I am saying that Minecraft is bad. I AM NOT! But I frankly can’t understand phenomenon called “Minecraft :P”

    • gamezalv

      Minecraft is….what you want it to be. There’s no story here nor any quests other than to survive (if you are playing survival mode). But the true appeal of minecraft is that you create your own adventure or your own goals.

      Like you at first I also never understood the appeal of minecraft. I downloaded the demo, played it and quickly got bored. But one day I thought of giving it another go (mainly because minecraft was announced for the vita, my fav gaming media of all time!) and I gave myself a simple goal of creating a house. At first I was simply creating a rectangular box out of wood but then I started adding details to it like a door, window and even a second floor and a basement! This is when I realised that minecraft is like virtual lego. I love lego and so I quickly grew attached to minecraft. As you said, people could put the time and effort they put into minecraft in game development or design for profit however unlike developing games minecraft is a place where people can relax and do/create whatever they want rather than catering for others.

    • Kevin Aaronson

      I thinks your over thinking it, some people (including me) just want to dick around in a virtual sandbox without the constraints of “guess what the developers thinking” that most objective based games have.

    • Shay Batty

      That’s an interesting point and I totally understand and get what you’re saying. I’ve only recently started playing and getting into Minecraft with the Ps Vita release and I am by no means an expert, especially judging by the fact that I really haven’t played that much of the game. Anyway, before I’d ever played the game I wondered, what the heck is even the point of this game? Building stuff doesn’t sound that fun since I don’t think I’m particularly creative. I even watched some gameplay videos and it didn’t seem very appealing, but I love my Vita and decided Minecraft is popular for a reason, but does it really live up to all the hype it’s getting? I had low expectations, but wanted to go into the game feeling unbiased rather than wanting to hate it. After exploring only a bit of the very many things minecraft has to offer in my personal opinion it was really satisfying going around just exploring and knowing that you can successfully make something of your own creation. But, that’s just my opinion and everyone is different, it may just not be the game for you. All I’m saying is that I didn’t think I’d like it until I gave it a try!

    • Jeremy Hansel Gonzal

      Correct me if I’m wrong but I think several games have been based on Minecraft already, like Terraria and Don’t Starve. If you haven’t played those, it’d be a good springboard to understand what Minecraft’s appeal is.

      • Caleb Mathers

        i had terraria on my ps vita and it was far too addictive and when i heard that minecraft was coming to vita i was very amused due to a fascination i have with creativity,i got minecraft and i do not regret it. i have built daft punk,reptar,a dalek,nyan cat,giant replicas of the tools in their respective locations (axe in a tree etc.) and a giant enderman in diamond armour 🙂

  • I think the Vita version is nearly perfect if only because I think this is a game that i best suited for a portable device… it just plays so well on it, and its portability means you can, obviously, play it anywhere, which adds a level of appeal to this game that the console versions can’t match.