Minecraft - Pocket Edition
Minecraft is the little indie game that could. Borne on the wings of internet chatter, this bizarre and compelling game has steadily taken over the world, infecting scores of gamers with its subtle sandbox gameplay.
And now it's the turn of mobile gamers to fall under its spell, with the release of Minecraft - Pocket Edition for Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play. But can a shrunk down, pocket-sized version of the PC sensation really capture the imaginations of millions, all over again?
Of course it can.Mine, all mine
Minecraft - Pocket Edition takes the core of the Minecraft experience - the ability to aimlessly create - and uses that as its main hook. This is more like Minecraft Classic than the paid PC beta version.
You're sent out into a randomly generated world, and it's your job to reshape that landscape however you see fit. You have an unlimited supply of different types of cubes, from wood to sand to brick to granite, and plenty of coloured blocks as well.
All in all there are 36 blocks to choose from, some of which are stronger than others, although the differences are basically cosmetic. The world is made out of the same cubes, and pretty much all of them can be destroyed.
You also have torches, to light whatever you choose to build, and ladders to climb. Everything else is left to your own imagination.Playing with miners
Want to build a castle? Build a castle. Want to build an entire city, complete with houses, tower blocks, parks, and roads? Well, you'll probably need to get your phone charger, but knock yourself out.
Thanks to the Xperia Play's slide-out controller, the game is a joy to play, with the shoulder buttons controlling block placement and destruction and the face buttons scrolling through the blocks you have available.
Whilst it's not as intuitive a way to play as mouse and keyboard, it's pretty close. Building is simple and fun.
Other people can join in the fun too, connecting through a local wireless network and helping you to sculpt your blocky utopia. There are no online options, however, so don't expect to be building with strangers or far away friends any time soon.
This will bother some players more than others, but there's no doubt that the lack of online multiplayer is a serious omission.
The game looks almost identical to its PC counterpart. A blend of 3D graphics, old skool textures, and simple colour schemes make it instantly recognisable as a Minecraft game. The familiar, crunchy sound effects are in place as well, although music seems to be sadly absent.Craft works
In spite of its diminutive size, Minecraft - Pocket Edition is still as addictive as its PC progenitor. Building, destroying, and exploring are such fundamental human urges that it's almost impossible to pick the game up for a quick go.
Hours slip by before you realise that everything you had planned for the night has been superceded by an overwhelming desire to see if you can build a tunnel through a mountain.
Minecraft - Pocket Edition is very much a work in progress - the build that's available for download is still in the early stages of alpha. But it still feels more polished and refined than a lot of the titles you'll find on the Android Market.
Even though many of the features from the PC version are missing, Minecraft - Pocket Edition is a fascinating and engrossing game, and one that will only get better with time and updates.