This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the Xbox 360 version of Mojang's indie hit Minecraft, which reviews describe as "Xbox Live Arcade's richest and slickest co-op experience to date." Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition currently earns a score of 83 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
OXM UK's Edwin Evans-Thirlwell scores Minecraft at 10 out of 10. "Minecraft is one of the most convivial games ever made, a sandbox editor which has given rise to an annual convention, hit YouTube weeklies, memes, factions and a clothing range," he explains. "To play it is to join an enormous community of like minds."
"Thankfully, the Xbox 360 port benefits from a generous tutorial mode - essentially a part-built playpen with all the main elements on show," Thirlwell continues. "This complements the cunning of Mojang's environment generator, which groups blocks and non-playable characters intuitively to create order amid chaos."
Thirlwell finds the multiplayer component to be a worthy addition. "Minecraft's drop-in split-screen is far and away Xbox Live Arcade's richest and slickest co-op experience to date," he praises. "The framerate lumbers a bit when there are three other players on-board, but that's a small price to pay for the privilege of teaming up to explore a cavern."
"4J has turned in an accomplished port, boasting crisp, high-resolution visuals and a reorganised inventory," Thirlwell summarizes. "It's pushing it to say that this is the definitive version - thanks to Microsoft's certification procedures, the PC game will probably benefit from more frequent updates, and how Mojang intends to handle user mods like custom textures remains to be seen. In terms of console sims, though, nothing touches it."
Daniel Bischoff at Game Revolution rates Minecraft at 4 out of 5. "I wasn't entirely sure Microsoft's bid for the exclusive release of Minecraft on Xbox 360 was the smartest business decision," he admits. "The eternally indie world-builder from Mojang seemed so... PC."
However: "In the last few days, I've been sucked in, delighted, and genuinely scared by the fact that I missed this experience when it was still in beta. I'd say Minecraft on Xbox 360 works just fine."
Bischoff warns that the premise can quickly wear out its welcome. "It's a fantastic experience, drawing players in with discovery, wonder, and a sense that you're playing with some kind of futuristic Legos," Bischoff explains. "That said, that experience can wear fairly thin after those first few hours. Xbox 360 Edition's couch co-op can stave off the boredom, as can the online world-sharing, but when everyone else goes to sleep and you're left alone again, the silence can be unbearable."
"I have to recommend anyone who's yet to play Minecraft or doesn't have a gaming PC to buy Xbox 360 Edition. Immediately. Seriously, do not hesitate. Just. Go. Buy," Bischoff exhorts. "If you've already been playing Mojang's baby for years, though, there's nothing new here. Stick to your establishment. And it should be obvious, but if you've tried Minecraft and didn't like it, Xbox 360 Edition won't make a fan out of you."
Polygon's Russ Pitts gives Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition a 7 out of 10. "If you play Minecraft for any significant length of time you will realize two things: given enough time, you can build almost anything you can imagine inside of this block-shaped sandbox, and you will never have enough time," he warns.
Pitts praises Minecraft's freeform gameplay. "There are no levels, no missions and no cutscenes or voices telling you what to do," he notes. "There is, in fact, nothing you are supposed to do but survive. And even that is a choice. If you die, you will simply respawn and you can go collect all of your lost items if you can find them. No harm, no foul. The game is what you make of it, and however you choose to spend your time in Minecraft is fine with Minecraft. It doesn't judge."
The new tutorial modes take away some of the original game's charm, however. "The plethora of in-game tips and tutorials make Minecraft far less intimidating to gamers with little time or patience to stumble around blindly looking for the fun, much of the mystery and discovery of the original game has been stripped away by the very things meant to make it more palatable," Pitts explains.
"Discovering [...] mysteries and then surmounting the challenges alone, without instruction or guidance, is what made the original Minecraft such a unique thrill," Pitts continues. "Even when this absence of guidance proved frustrating or destructive, it could make the experience of creating even simple things in Minecraft more satisfying."
"This XBLA version of Minecraft is not [an] exercise in hard-won discovery," Pitts concludes. "All other aspects of the game experience having been ported over intact, this one absence will be felt most deeply in long run, in how little true devotion it will inspire among gamers hopping in over Xbox Live to build their block-shaped dongs. And while that may be the right tool (so to speak) for the right task, it nevertheless lets some of the air out of the tires."