Game Reviews XBox 360 Minecraft (Xbox 360)
 
Minecraft (Xbox 360)

Minecraft (Xbox 360) Hot

Editor rating
 
6.0
User rating
 
0.0 (0)


Accessibility At A Glance Minecraft (Xbox 360)

6.0

   
Precision > Maybe Read the detailed review please
One-Handed > Maybe Take a look at the detailed review before you buy
Deaf Gamers > Maybe Ummm, I would read the detailed review
Subtitles > No You may want to move past this game
Colorblind > Yes Colorblind gamers should be okay

About the Game

Class
Commercial
Maker
Mojang
Release Date
June 12, 2012
Multi-player
Yes
Licence Category
commercial

minecraft-banner


By now, it should be no secret that Minecraft is a phenomenon on the PC. It doesn't look like much, but it's a very deep game, both literally and figuratively. Players can dig hundreds of levels down, and new content – block types, enemies, game enhancements – is constantly being added. There's always something to explore, always something to investigate, something to make … there is, in short, no end to the game. 

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Minecraft (Xbox 360)
Minecraft (Xbox 360)
Minecraft (Xbox 360)
Minecraft (Xbox 360)

Editor review

Minecraft (Xbox 360) 2012-08-18 19:40:00 Scott Puckett
Overall rating 
 
6.0
Mobility 
 
6.0
Visual 
 
9.0
Hearing 
 
3.0
Scott Puckett Reviewed by Scott Puckett    August 18, 2012
Last updated: August 18, 2012
Top 10 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews

Minecraft Nao Wif Kittehz!

By now, it should be no secret that Minecraft is a phenomenon on the PC. It doesn't look like much, but it's a very deep game, both literally and figuratively. Players can dig hundreds of levels down, and new content – block types, enemies, game enhancements – is constantly being added. There's always something to explore, always something to investigate, something to make … there is, in short, no end to the game. The world is only as limited as the player's imagination, and the countless videos of automated lairs and traps and mechanisms that players have made suggest that players can create or do just about anything they can think of in Minecraft. Players have made rollercoasters, pranks, scale models of Star Trek ships and so on. It's an incredibly rich environment which sometimes feels more like a development platform than a game (search for Minecraft redstone tutorials on YouTube and you'll get an idea of how complex things can get).

With all that in mind, I was curious to see how Minecraft would fare in being ported from PC to Xbox. There are no shortage of games that have suffered from being ported to PC, but far fewer games go from PC to consoles and it seemed certain that Minecraft on the Xbox would be a substantially different experience than Minecraft on the PC – it was just a matter of how different.

After playing a fair amount of Minecraft on Xbox and a good deal more on PC for comparison, it's difficult for me to recommend Minecraft on the Xbox. It isn't that it's a bad game – Minecraft, even with the awkward and more limited control scheme on the console, is a very good game which is absolutely worth playing in any form. The problem is that it suffers significantly from comparison to its PC sibling, and the two versions are sufficiently different to think of them as separate but related titles, much in the way that a developer may create a new title in a flagship franchise designed specifically for the different capabilities of tablets or smart phones, and it's difficult for me to suggest that people who are physically capable of playing it on PC and have a computer which can handle the game instead play it on the console.

For people who have yet to try Minecraft, it's a deceptively simple game. Players wake up in a wilderness. You don't know where you are or why you're there, but you need to harvest and mine resources to build a shelter, because night is coming and so are the monsters. Zombies, exploding creepers, hopping spiders and so on (also, in my current game, a bunch of landlocked and strangely unkillable squid – which aren't aggressive or hostile – swimming around in dirt and occasionally flying through the air) will be searching for you and will try to kill you. The graphics … well, people may love Minecraft for its graphics, but if they do, it's largely for the uniqueness of them and not for the quality because they're a throwback to the 8-bit era. Most people seem to love Minecraft for how meditative it can be and how complicated it can be. And perhaps most importantly, Minecraft doesn't tell people how to play. There's a creative mode in which no monsters exist. Some people PVP in Minecraft and build fiendishly complex traps and puzzles. Players can do just about anything in Minecraft.

And yet a number of things become clear when playing Minecraft on Xbox. First, it's an older build, one in which zombies still drop feathers as loot. Second, the controls were intended for a keyboard, not a controller. The convenient item bar in Minecraft on PC which allows players to press a number on the keyboard to put an item in the player's hand is now controlled by the right and left bumpers which is incredibly frustrating when a creeper is advancing and you need a weapon now.

The crafting interface is actually improved though – Minecraft players on the PC are likely used to having the Minecraft wiki with a list of crafting recipes bookmarked or even open in their browser. On the console, the crafting interface is now controlled by bumpers and sticks, and only allows players to select items they can actually make with the resources they have in their inventory. Such improvements are few and far between though; frankly, the crafting interface is the only improvement I can think of as I write this.

And yet it's still easy to think of Minecraft on the Xbox as a success; the Minecraft clones which have existed on Xbox Live to date – despite offering more polished graphics, more block types and so forth – just don't compare. It's clear that there's something about this game which can't be copied or duplicated – it isn't the number or type of blocks, and it isn't the presence or absence of enemies … it's hard to identify what exactly makes Minecraft so unique and so special, but even at its most simplistic levels, it's clear that there's an immense amount of thought in this game. Digging along the shore of a pond or lake creates currents, animals act in distinct (and often annoying ways), players can tame wild animals, they can build automated machines and even objects as complicated as combination locks – there's a lot to do in this world and a lot of nuance and subtle physics in it, and no clone has captured even a fraction of it yet. Instead, they often substitute quantity, apparently reasoning that if a dozen block types are good, one hundred block types must be great.

Still, for people who have played Minecraft on the PC, playing it on Xbox can be frustrating at times, largely due to the older build and the interface changes which are necessary when porting a game from a platform which allows a nearly infinite variety of commands to one which offers a controller with a limited set of features. For folks who have played or can play Minecraft on the PC, the version on the Xbox will seem disappointing at times. For people who have yet to play Minecraft at all, experiencing it on the Xbox is a worthy use of time, but it's merely a taste of what exists on the PC.



Accessibility Issues / Concerns:

Perhaps the single biggest accessibility issue in Minecraft is the lack of closed-captioning. There isn't any dialogue, but sound is quite important, even in creative (or peaceful, i.e. no combat) mode. Audio cues alert players to the presence of water or, more critically, lava. Considering how devastating tunneling into a lava flow can be (death and destruction of all items in inventory if a player doesn't get out of the lava quickly enough), this is a fundamental problem which makes the game far more difficult for deaf gamers than it should be. This problem is magnified in game modes which feature combat because monsters and enemies make a range of different sounds, indicating what type of mob is nearby. Even worse, these sounds also indicate the direction of the mob (or lava flow). Without closed captioning, deaf gamers are entirely excluded from these audio cues. While this oversight may not render the game wholly unplayable by deaf people, it is needlessly more hazardous for them, especially considering the damage a creeper can do when it explodes. A related but less problematic concern is that different materials like clay, sand and dirt also make different noises but may look similar underwater. Considering that clay is a very useful resource (it makes brick blocks which are very strong), this places deaf players at a further disadvantage.

Players with mobility and precision concerns need to know that Minecraft offers three controller layouts and includes a southpaw option, resulting in six possible configurations. Precision is typically a concern when mining in riskier areas with long drops, but can be mitigated by toggling sneak and this is actually one area where the Xbox version improves on the PC version. When sneak is on, players are far less likely to fall off the edge of a cliff (however, I still managed to do it). On the PC side, the sneak button must be held down to prevent falls. In modes which enable enemies, precision becomes more important – players will need it to fire arrows at advancing enemies or attack mobs with a sword. Even in mining, precision can be important – as one example, placing blocks into a lava flow to prevent overhead resources from falling into lava and being lost forever requires careful movement and reticle placement to ensure that blocks go where the player wants them to. Mining continuously requires players to hold the trigger down which may be a problem for some users, and there isn't one controller scheme which seems noticeably better for gamers with use of only one hand than any other scheme.

The good news is that players with vision concerns shouldn't encounter many, if any, problems with Minecraft. Minecraft makes limited use of color in the user interface, and at least in this build, only uses color in the red hearts which indicate a player's health. As a player loses health, those hearts empty. However, players don't have to distinguish between red and green for meaning. Players with low vision concerns can adjust gamma correction and make the game quite bright. In underground areas, players will still need to use torches, but the gamma correction is an outstanding accessibility accommodation for players who need greater brightness or contrast.

But at the end of it all, Minecraft on the Xbox 360 raises a fundamental question – does offering a single game mode in which precision is less important, in which sound matters less, in which the only real risk is the player walking off the edge of a cliff or tunneling into a lava flow or plummeting to their death by mining the wrong voxel at the wrong time actually make the game accessible? To me, the issue isn't whether peaceful mode is accessible, because it largely is. It's that the lack of audio cues make other game modes inaccessible and place disabled gamers – particularly gamers with hearing concerns – at a significant disadvantage, even in the most accessible mode currently available.



Review Hardware:
Xbox 360 Slim Console
32” LCD HDTV w/HDMI cables
Razer Onza Tournament Edition gaming controller

Accessibility Scores:
Mobility: 6
Visual: 9
Hearing: 3

Original Purchase Price: Review copy

Recommended Purchase Price: $20 / 1600 Microsoft Points



At A Glance:

Precision: Minecraft doesn't involve button mashing, timing button combos or any other common pitfalls. Gamers with precision concerns may encounter some difficulties with holding the trigger down to continuously mine, and some precision is needed in game modes with combat. Some precision is required in all game modes to prevent falling off cliffs or into chasms, etc. Minecraft includes a number of difficulty levels, including one with no combat required. There are no mandatory quick-time events and the game includes a function to adjust joystick sensitivity.

Deaf Gamers: Minecraft does not include subtitles or closed captioning, but sound conveys critical game information without any visual cues to mitigate the lack of closed captions. Even in the combat-free mode, the game communicates information via sound, such as nearby water or lava, as well as what type of block the player is walking on. In peaceful modes, tunneling into a lava flow is still dangerous, and tunneling into an underground spring can sweep the player off edges and into parts of caverns that may be difficult to exit.

One-handed: Minecraft doesn't involve button mashing, timing button combos or any other common pitfalls. Gamers with use of only one hand may encounter some difficulties with holding the trigger down to continuously mine, and some precision is needed in game modes with combat. Some precision is required in all game modes to prevent falling off cliffs or into chasms, etc. Minecraft includes a number of difficulty levels, including one with no combat required. There are no mandatory quick-time events and the game includes a function to adjust joystick sensitivity. There are six controller settings – three for right-handed players and three southpaw schemes.

Subtitles: Minecraft does not include subtitles or closed captioning, but sound conveys critical game information without any visual cues to mitigate the lack of closed captions. Even in the combat-free mode, the game communicates information via sound, such as nearby water or lava, as well as what type of block the player is walking on. In peaceful modes, tunneling into a lava flow is still dangerous, and tunneling into an underground spring can sweep the player off edges and into parts of caverns that may be difficult to exit.

Visual: Gamers with a form of color blindness shouldn't experience many, if any problems with Minecraft. Health is displayed as red hearts, but players do not have to distinguish between red and green or blue and yellow. Gamers with low vision concerns can adjust gamma correction to improve brightness and contrast.

Checkpoint / Save System: Minecraft allows players to set autosave intervals. Players can save at any time and in any location, and can also save on exit.

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Scott Puckett
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