As one of the best-selling independently produced sandbox games ever made – not to mention one of the most influential games of the past five years - Minecraft has inspired a number of imitators.
Markus Persson’s open-ended construction-kit-cum-adventure arrived on iOS this week, just one week after imitator Junk Jack hit the App Store. Unlike many games inspired by Minecraft, Junk Jack more than holds its own.
Initially, it can seem very unforgiving, plonking you into its world with no instructions whatsoever. You’re simply left to go out, explore, and smash rocks and trees into pixellated bits.
There’s a craftbook that gives you basic instructions on how to get around and how to construct a few basic tools at your grid-based craft table, but otherwise it’s up to you to fend for yourself.
To make stuff, you obviously need resources, so you’ll need to step out into the world and obliterate the blocks in the environment by tapping repeatedly on them.
Gather a few materials and you can open up your crafting table, a 3x3 grid where you drop objects (stone, wood, etc.) and start creating.
Tools of the trade
You’ll need a shovel for dirt, and a pickaxe to smash rocks, while an axe makes short work of any trees in the vicinity. A hammer can break up chests and usable items, and then, if you want to upgrade your tools, you’ll need an anvil.
Once you have the necessary base materials, you place them in position and voila – a new tool is yours. In a cute touch, the shape representing the tool in the grid resembles the tool itself.
Of course, you’ll need a sword, too – because here be monsters. In truth, they’re more a minor irritation than something to be feared, but their presence lends a certain tension to your trips away from home.
Light 'em up
You’ll need to craft torches when night falls to ensure the monsters don’t spawn near you, which is just a matter of combining coal and wooden planks.
If Junk Jack doesn’t hold your hand, its rules are still logical, and before long you’ll start figuring it out before it’s prepared to reveal all – uncovering its secrets unprompted is all part of the appeal.
Though less expansive than Minecraft, it’s a good fit for iOS, and its pixel-art visual style has plenty of charm - as does the dinky chiptune soundtrack that’ll have you whistling while you work.
Jenny was a friend of mine
Before long, you’ll be spinning wool on a wheel and using a forge to make glass and cook food, or crafting ingots, building special items, and getting lost in the wilderness.
The only real niggle you’ll come up against is the controls. Icons are small, and rearranging your inventory can be excruciatingly awkward. It’s not entirely ruinous, but a few interface tweaks would help.
Junk Jack isn’t for those who prefer straightforward objectives – or, indeed, any kind of goal at all.
Some will find it overwhelming, but its gloriously freeform setup should find it a solid fanbase, even if it looks set to be crushed in the popularity stakes by the game that clearly inspired it.
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