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| Terraria
| Terraria

My Terraria house - a ramshackle wooden hut with two chairs and a crafting table - is not exactly in a prime location.

Wander too far to the west and you'll come across an enormous, impassable golden temple, guarded by a crazed man. If you break in, and leap over a pair of acid-tipped arrow traps, you'll be immediately eviscerated by a giant floating skull.

To the east, there's a swamp made from corrupted mud. The area is patrolled by floating cylcops monsters called soul eaters, and littered with perilous drops.

And people wonder why I never leave the house.

I can dig it

This might not be be your experience in Terraria, of course. The game's terrifying landscape is largely generated at random, and your spawn point might be flanked by epically tall mountains or giant lakes or dimly lit caves filled with slime monsters.

It's exploring the world that you've landed in, and discovering what lies around the next bend or beneath the next layer of bedrock, that makes Terraria so damn engrossing. And it makes those comparisons to Minecraft seem a little half baked.

Sure, you can mine. Every block in the world can be hacked at with a pickaxe or blown up by bombs, and reused elsewhere to build a house or a fortress or a bridge over a particularly big chasm.

And you can craft. Raw materials can be scavenged from quarries and turned into swords and beds and copper trousers and toilets. There are hundreds of items to make, as long as you've got the materials and the appropriate workbench.

But Terraria wants you to ditch that handmade home, and see what's over the next hill or at the bottom of that sinkhole or on the other side of that river. And unlike Minecraft, where the most exciting thing you're likely to find is a cow, Terraria is filled with discoveries.

Over the hill

Maybe you'll find a plot of land that has been pockmarked by meteor strikes. Maybe you'll stumble upon an underground jungle, or build a land ladder up to a colony of floating islands. What's at the bottom of this chasm? Maybe a lava pool. Or an RPG-style dungeon.

The game is jam packed. There are loads of goodies to find, a gaggle of enemies to kill, many complicated systems to untangle, and untold secrets to uncover.

There is, however, quite a steep learning curve. There is a tutorial, but beyond that you just have a so-called guide, who offers impressively unhelpful advice like "smashing a shadow orb will sometimes cause a meteor to fall out of the sky" - as if I know what the hell a shadow orb is, Brett.

And he always leaves my door open so a zombie can come in and murder us both. Screw you, Brett.

Bloody Brett

Nothing is very intuitive - you don't use a crafting table, you just open your inventory while standing near it. I had to consult an online guide to figure out how doors work, and I'm still not entirely sure how you turn beds into new spawn points.

It definitely doesn't help that the controls on this iOS version are less than perfect. The mining is quite good - you get a zoomed-in view of your pickaxe target, and a circle of influence shows you which bricks are close enough to smash.

But moving is kind of flaky, jumping is awkward, doors are supposed to be automatic but rarely work properly, and combat often boils down to a mad sword-flailing fumble.

This iOS edition is also missing a really key component: multiplayer. You can't hook up with friends or invite random players into your world. It means Terraria becomes an isolated experience, when it has classically been a buzzing swarm of lightsabre-wielding explorers all working together to take down some monster boss.

Craft work

But you can't take away the fact that Terraria is deep and deeply engrossing. It's about pure, unadulterated exploration, and there's always something new to uncover or somewhere new to explore.

Sure, it doesn't offer the same potential to craft incredible wonders like Minecraft. And the things you discover are never quite as impressive as they would be in a handmade adventure. But the combination of the two offers something very compelling.

Due to the dodgy controls and lack of multiplayer in this iOS port, you might want to wait for the PS Vita version - if you have the hardware, and the patience, that is. Otherwise, this imperfect iOS port will do quite nicely.


Terraria's mix of creative crafting and endless exploration will keep you rapt for weeks. But a lack of multiplayer and some wonky touchscreen controls let the experience down
Mark Brown
Mark Brown
Mark Brown spent several years slaving away at the Steel Media furnace, finally serving as editor at large of Pocket Gamer before moving on to doing some sort of youtube thing.