Minecraft is a game where you start with nothing, but - with enough time, effort, and ingenuity - can create anything.
It's a dizzying prospect. When you start the game you're dropped into a serene landscape with rolling hills, sandy beaches, dark caves, and yawning oceans. You have no direction, no goals, and no big floating arrow to follow.
One minute, you're cowering in a rocky cave on the side of a mountain as torrential rain beats down outside, and monsters lurk in the darkness. The next, you're fighting off jungle spiders with a diamond sword.
Later, you've built a skyscraper. Or a pirate ship. Or a floating island. Or an underground lair. Up to you.Crafty blighter
The game thrives on imagination. But (unless you're playing creative mode), you can't just build whatever you think of. You've got to work for it. You've got to find and fight for the materials. And that makes the final product even more satisfying.
And of course you can trade with villagers, find treasure chests underground, make a farm, ride pigs, build a minecart roller coaster, create enchanted weapons, and forge redstone-powered contraptions. This is, after all, Minecraft proper.
But it's also on a handheld, which has its advantages and its disadvantages.Bricking it
You've been able to play some version of Minecraft on the go for some time thanks to Pocket Edition but this Vita version isn't just more feature complete - it's also got vastly superior controls.
You've got the twin analogue stick set-up for moving and looking, proper buttons, and no gimmicky nonsense with tilt or the rear-touch panel.
And while you can control everything with buttons, you'll find yourself also using the touchscreen to quickly select items from your quick inventory, or zip around the menus. It's possibly the best control set-up of any console version.
The only pain is inventory management, which feels like a hold-over from the days of a mouse cursor and can't be controlled through touch. One thoughtful solution is the Triangle button for 'quick move', which makes smart context sensitive decisions to shift items about.Axe me a question
Squishing such a large game onto a handheld console comes with some concessions, of course. Your playground is huge, but not quite as monstrous as the worlds in the PC version and you may find yourself bumping up against an invisible border sooner than you hope.
It's definitely big enough for an adventure but epic explorers might want to stick to the PC version and its infinitely large environments.
Performance is mostly perfect, but a few technical hiccups can spoil the fun. There are a few frame rate hitches here and there and sometimes the animation that shows you're chipping away at a block refuses to show.Diamond in the rough
In its favour, the game's got multiplayer for friends to play together, with four players over local wireless and eight online. And you can send the game world back and forth between the Vita and PS3 version.
It's a neat trick, but a bit of a faff. Similarly, being able to send your Vita world to the PS4 edition is nice, but technical limitations means it's a one way street. You can still play on Vita, but you can't transfer any changes made on PS4.
Ultimately, Minecraft is inventive, ingenious, addictive, and hugely time-consuming. It seems massively unlikely that you've come this far in life without having played the game but if so, this Vita version is a nice introduction.
You get the whole game, with few compromises, and the pleasure of playing it everywhere. So unless you're short on time or your creative muscles are worn out, try this game.