'Minecraft' is puzzling and pixelated but oddly addictive

palcala@herald-leader.comJuly 19, 2012 

  • VIDEO GAME REVIEW

    'Minecraft'

    About: A sandbox-style game in which players craft items and build their own world with a goal of not being killed by monsters.

    Players: Single, multi-player

    Pros: It's beyond addictive and offers plenty of challenge.

    Cons: The graphics are intentionally pixelated, so don't look for outstanding visuals. It also can be very difficult.

    Availability and price: $20 on Xbox Live Arcade, $26.95 on PC

    ESRB rating: E10+

    Manifesto's rating: 9/10 (Xbox 360)

    Metacritic rating: 8.2/10 (Xbox 360)

The makers of Minecraft recently released the game, already a hit in the PC and mobile world, that challenges you to create your own world on the Xbox Live Arcade. Having heard how addictive it can be, I decided to try it. Here's how my journey began.

Day 1: I start by creating a world, naming it El Norte. I begin as an 8-bit character in a heavily pixelated world that includes some water nearby, hills and trees. There are sheep, pigs, cows and chickens wandering around. The chickens look like ducks, though, because the graphics are so bad. If I give the animals a good beating, I can create wool, pork chops, leather and eggs.

I take a look at my inventory, and it seems I've also acquired wood, sand and dirt.

A few more minutes pass, and it gets dark. I guess El Norte has very short days compared to Earth. Suddenly, I hear weird, scary noises and get eaten by a zombie. That's enough of that.

Day 2: I'm giving Minecraft another shot. My character spawns and it's still dark. I fight off the zombie, fall in the water because I can't see in the dark, and drown. I respawn while it's still dark and start getting shot with arrows coming from who knows where. I'm then killed by a creeper. What's a creeper? I'm done.

Day 3: I change El Norte's difficulty setting to "Peaceful." This is much nicer: There are no zombies, archers or creepers, whatever those are. The sun comes up, and I start my day by chopping down some trees and digging into the side of a hill. Now I have enough items to make a crafting table. With the crafting table, I make a bed, which allows me to fast-forward through the night, and I start digging.

Day 4: I've made a nice little hobbit hole for myself in El Norte. I have a furnace to make iron ore into ingots and can create metal tools that make digging much easier.

I have lit my mines with torches, so I don't have to sleep anymore.

I'm working on a fenced area for my livestock and have planted some roses outside my house. I don't have to worry about zombies any more, either. I have my mine sealed with a good sturdy door that I built with my crafting table.

Day 5: Some friends of mine invite me over to Wallaworld, the domain of Walladog. It seems my old Call of Duty buddies have been busy in Minecraft. They have built a department store called Walla-Mart, and a huge yacht, numerous houses and staircases that go high into the sky, leading to more real estate. And what is that over there? A couple of pyramids that put the Incans to shame. Inside one of them is an art museum and some casino-style blackjack tables.

This place is so big that I have to get in a mine cart and take the highway down into the mines, where my buddies have been digging for gold, diamonds and other high-value items How long have these guys been here?

Maybe if I dig a little further, I might find my own gold or diamonds. And believe me, I'll keep digging. Minecraft is an addictive game.

I'm smelting some ore and cooking pork chops, of course, because all this digging makes me hungry.

Pablo Alcalá: (859) 231-1604.

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