Minecraft Review

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Title: Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition
Developer: Mojang, 4J Studios
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 170 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail 

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: Yes

When you talk about Indie games, there are a lot of people in the console community that will have their moods and hearts sink.  With the Indie library flourishing, especially on PlayStation systems, many gamers have become uneager to play them, or even acknowledge them.  Many feel like the Indie Movement of sorts is a scourge to the gaming community and is stopping the Vita from having new AAA games like a new Uncharted, Gravity Rush, God of War, Gran Turismo, and others.

Indies are widely regarded as low budget “shovelware” in the views of a large chunk of the community.  However, one thing that those people may not know is that not all Indie games are games that are looked down upon.  There has been an Indie game that has risen up even higher than many console and PC games in terms of popularity and is a AAA game of sorts: Minecraft.

Minecraft has gotten so popular there is merchandise, hand books, shirts, and more available to it.  For the Vita, though, Minecraft hitting the digital release catalog a week ago was a big deal.  This will be the first time that the full Minecraft Console experience will be available on-the-go, not to mention the cross-buy and upgrade opportunities for the PS3 and PS4 versions.  How does the game stack up in its transition from PS3 to PS Vita?  We have answers.  Here is our official review of Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition!

Story

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When you look towards Indie games, you generally aren’t looking for a story, but more about fun gameplay to keep you engaged for a chunk of your time.  When Terraria, a Minecraft-like game released on the Vita, it was similar.  Terraria didn’t have much of a story to it, and your biggest goals were to collect materials and build.  Minecraft is the same way.  There isn’t a huge tale to be told.  At least, not one you are given mention of.

Behind the free-roam do-whatever-you-want aspect of Minecraft, there is a tale behind it, which will be given to you if you do the right tasks.  In Minecraft, you are a blocky person who is out in a dangerous world and must find the tools to survive.  Apart from that, though, is that your hidden goal is to not only survive in this world, but travel to another dimension altogether and to defeat an evil beast known as the Ender Dragon.

The story of Minecraft is not given to you, nor is it hinted on much.  If you want to see the story, you need to do the right tasks to get to where the Ender Dragon lies.  Only then will you see a story mode.  Consider it like the original Doom, where you played through the game and got the story once you reached the end of each chapter.  It’s an interesting story, but not what you play the game for.

Gameplay

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Minecraft plays out like an open-world exploration game.  No matter what game mode you are in, you are in a huge open 3D world that you can explore at your leisure.  One of the unique things about Minecraft is that open-ness.  You aren’t limited on where you can go by plot points.  You can go anywhere and do anything you want and never in any specific order.  It can be all decided on you, whether you want to fight enemies or just walk around and explore your world.

When you play Minecraft, you create a World.  You can do this in the Tutorial World that is already preset, or you can create your own World in Survival or Creative Mode.  When you create a world, you can set your own parameters on what is in the world or how certain things can be affected.  You can set whether it’s an online game people can join, whether fire can spread, allow Strongholds and Villages to appear, among other things.

What’s unique about making a world is that every world is generated randomly.  When you create two worlds, they will not be similar in the least bit.  One could have a vast ocean, and one could have no ocean.  One could have a huge desert village and another could have a village on a mountain-top.  You also get World Seed codes that you can give to your friends if they would like to create a world just like yours, or vice-versa with getting codes from your friends.  You can also use skin packs and textures to make things look different.  Though, you cannot save your game with a game outside the default skins and textures unless you buy them from the PlayStation Store as DLC.

The biggest thing you will want to decide is if you wish to play in Survival Mode or Creative Mode.  Survival Mode is the “main” mode of the game, though worlds can generate just the same in Creative Mode.  Survival Mode is the only game mode where you are able to earn trophies for the game.  In this mode, you start out with nothing but your bare hands and must fend for yourself by collecting materials and crafting a shelter, bed, tools, weapons, armor, and more.

The biggest portion of Survival is surviving.  When night falls in your world, monsters will start spawning more often than during the day.  To protect yourself from the likes of giant spiders, zombies, and self-destructing Creepers, you must craft a shelter to barricade yourself in and make a bed to sleep in during the night.  You can also craft armor and weapons to fight them off if they see you and give chase.  Crafting everything in the game, from shelter to a bed to weapons requires materials, and you must go out and gather those materials to make them.

Every part of Minecraft you can “mine”.  If you see a tree, you can knock out blocks of it to get wood to be able to make a shelter or even a wooden axe to more easily cut down more wood.  There are also animals around for other materials, such as sheep for wool on a bed or cows for leather for armor.  Every block of mountain, dirt, animal, tree, and more can be mined into materials, though some cannot be mined without creating the proper equipment first.

The animals also brings about the other key to surviving: Eating.  You have two bars on your HUD: Health and Hunger.  When your Hunger bar is full, you will be able to naturally regenerate health as you lose it from falling or being attacked by enemies.  To get the Hunger bar back up when it falls, you need to eat food.  Food can be obtained by finding it in forests or by taking out animals like cows and pigs to gain food.  How much of the bar you regain also depends on what food you eat and whether or not you cook it beforehand.  Raw Beef won’t regenerate as much as a cooked Steak, for example.

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The main point of survival is exploration and crafting.  You will want to explore your world, where you can find materials you need for everything, as well as Strongholds in deep, underground caverns.  Strongholds house portals, which are the key to finding and fighting the Final Boss of the game.  As you go through your adventure, assuming you want to complete the story, you will need to find that Stronghold as well as what you need to activate the portal.

However, the game doesn’t force you to do this.  If you want to just explore and craft and build whatever you want from the materials you gain, you can do that too.  Many players don’t go to finish the story and instead build houses, villages, fortresses, or anything else that comes to mind.  Though the building portion is more convenient outside of Survival Mode.

Creative Mode is where people can get creative.  While you can make these worlds just like in Survival, this is more of a “Cheat” Mode.  In this mode, monsters will not attack you and you have infinite Health and Hunger.  You can fall from the very top of the world and will take no fall damage whatsoever.  You also start each Creative world with infinite number of every type of material, armor, weapon, and more in the game.

When you dive into Creative Mode, it’s more for building whatever you want than surviving and finding the Ender Dragon, although you can find it in that mode, if you so wish.  Creative Mode is where many of the big builders make their creations, so they don’t have to worry about enemies coming and destroying their creations or stopping their building to go eat food or sleep.  In this mode, the only limitation is your imagination.  You can create anything and everything, so long as you have a plan and use the right materials.  We even made a giant version of our Twitter logo in Creative Mode.

The final thing to mention is multiplayer.  Minecraft is an Online Game.  When you create a world, you can make one that players can willingly join or you can set to Invitation Only.  With these features, you can bring up to 3 of your friends into a game with you, be it in Survival or Creative Mode.  This is online over PSN.  So, if you need help taking out some enemies or just want to collaborate and big a huge community world, just grab your friends and you can go at it.

All in all, this is the PS3 version but on-the-go.  The question: is there a time limitation to Minecraft?  No, there isn’t.  It is a game where you play however long you want.  However, if you want to go into Survival and collect the materials and build up to go fight the Ender Dragon, you can expect to be playing the game for at least 5-7 hours, depending on the world you make and whether you know where to go and what materials to grab.  When your Creative side takes over, though, you can play for however long you wish.

Controls

The controls for Minecraft vary, but they’re not hard to do.  This will be our first review since the PlayStation TV releases, so we will include control schemes for both systems.  On the Vita, the touch screen is used, but not for a lot.  You can use the touch screen to navigate menus as well as tapping on an item in your Inventory you wish to equip to mine with or place somewhere.

You will be using the Left Analog Stick to move your character and the Right Analog Stick to move the camera.  The L and R triggers are used for placing items or mining/attacking with your currently-equipped material or item and the D-Pad is used to change the camera perspective and cycle through your inventory as opposed to the touch screen.  The rest of the game is done with the face buttons.  You use the X Button to jump and the Circle button to throw materials on the ground when you don’t need it.  You use Triangle to open your inventory, and the Square button is used to open up your Crafting Menu or the Inventory Selection in Creative Mode.

On the PlayStation TV, the controls are mostly the same, but a few things are different.  All of the face button and movement controls are the same.  The inventory swapping, however and selection is done with the R1 and L1 buttons instead of the touch screen and the D-Pad.  You will also be using L2 and R2 to place materials and mine.  Finally, the other D-Pad controls for changing camera angles and such are done with the L3 and R3 buttons.  It’s a little different, but a lot of it is similar between the two systems.

All in all, the controls aren’t too hard to get down.  It may take some time, but whenever you first do something, small hint windows will come up to show you what to do.

Presentation

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The presentation is possibly the most important part of this review.  Many people were skeptical about how well the full console edition of Minecraft could be brought into a portable platform like the PS Vita.  For the most part, it came well, but there are a few things to mention.

First of all, the visuals came over well.  Minecraft has a “Pixel” type of game look to it, since everything is made of blocks, from mountains to your character, himself.  If you look at the actual renders, you will see a jagged edge here and there, but overall, the graphical look of the game is done well.

How the game plays is what most people will want to know about.  When you’re playing through the game, there are two main differences between PS Vita Edition and PS3 Edition.  First of all is Draw Distance.  Draw Distance is how much of the world in front of you that you can see.  In the PSV version, you won’t be able to see nearly as far as in the PS3 Edition, but your scope of view is still pretty far.  It does get a little annoying at times, especially when racing back to your shelter, but nothing more than a small annoyance.

Another thing is lag.  When you’re playing the game, every so often, you will see the gameplay fidget for a split second.  This doesn’t happen often.  Maybe once every few minutes.  Still, it doesn’t play perfectly smooth throughout.  Like the above, it’s just a small annoyance, but an annoyance, all the same.  Other than that, the game plays well, despite the huge worlds represented within the game.

Summary

All in all, this is Minecraft: Console Edition, but portable.  Everything from the PS3 and PS4 versions are here as well as getting the PS3 version and a PS4 Upgrade deal when you purchase the game, be it retail or digital.  While the draw distance and occasional lag can bring about an annoyance every so often, this is the full Minecraft experience on the go and something no fan of 3D Exploration and Building will want to miss.

9/10

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