Game Reviews

Minecraft - Pocket Edition

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| Minecraft
Minecraft - Pocket Edition
| Minecraft

With the majority of modern games funnelling you through orchestrated set-pieces, or imposing strict success or fail states (think of Cut the Rope's star rating system), player freedom is becoming a lost art.

Minecraft, on the other hand, is all about freedom.

Essentially offering a half-finished 3D landscape upon which you add the final finessing touches, the creativity Mojang's game unlocks in players has seen it enjoy a meteoric rise from indie PC curio to a global phenomenon - one that’s made its designer a millionaire while still in Beta (the official launch isn’t until November).

Now, after a successful dry run on Xperia Play, the Pocket Edition has launched for all Android devices - with a new control scheme built-in to ensure it’s playable on touchscreen handsets.

The question is, can the Minecraft magic be sustained on any Android, or is it Lego-esque bridge too far?

Block party

Minecraft - Pocket Edition is, essentially, the early Creative mode of the ever-evolving PC game, where the object is transform a randomly generated environment into a world of your design.

This is both an exciting and daunting task, and one that will intrinsically appeal to free-thinking players while possibly alienating those who prefer scripted missions and maps with directional markers.

Every neatly-squared of the terrain, varying from caverns of rock to long beaches and sweeping hills, can be built on (apart from water, obviously) and any blocks in your way can be quickly removed.

With an afternoon, and some soothing music on Spotify, we managed to construct an idyllic two-floored abode (half built into the hillside and half across a wooden jetty) without breaking too much of a sweat.

More elaborate creations can be crafted with the infinite number of the 36 different block types available to play with (from earth to wood and stone, with brightly coloured ones and flowers for decorations), but sometimes it’s rewarding to build something that would make Grand Designs’s Kevin McCloud smile appreciatively.

Creativity on tap

The only blot on Minecraft’s architectural blueprint is the controls. While the combination of virtual D-pad on the left and swiping to look around is sensible enough, the execution is surprisingly sloppy.

Looking around is too slow, with no option currently available to speed it up, and the placement of the 'jump' icon in the centre of the D-pad feels unnatural and clumsy. It’s not a game-breaker, but anyone wanting to build at height - where imprecise leaps can be disastrous - might come a cropper.

It’s a shame, as tapping to place a block and holding (which fills a circular meter) to remove them feels like a natural, satisfying fit on touchscreens. Being able to scale the visuals to match the power of your handset is a smart touch, too, though we had no problems with everything dialled up on a Desire HD.

It’s a small world

Even with the imperfect controls and significantly smaller maps than the main game, Minecraft - Pocket Edition still feels pretty special, and the current exclusivity to Android is one of the few things Google gamers can hold over the iOS crowd.

We're a long way off from getting a full Survival mode, with items to craft, mines to plunder, and giant spiders to fend off, but creative players (or those with the patience to wait for Mojang's promised updates to arrive) are going to really dig this.

Minecraft - Pocket Edition

The touchscreen controls need some re-forging, but this is still a solid Android spin on a genuine gaming phenomenon