Review | 5/9/2012 at 3:00 PM

Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition Co-Op Review

Building Co-Op Friends, One Block at a Time

The massively anticipated arrival of Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is already turning console gamers into absolute crafting addicts. Now having their opportunity to craft to their hearts content, Xbox 360 users can thank Mojang and Microsoft for turning the mega popular PC game into a console counterpart with some beefed up co-op components.

How do you explain Minecraft to someone who’s never experienced the game before? Everything in the game is a block. You mine things, you craft things, you kill things. That’s the game in a square shaped nutshell. However, explaining Minecraft to someone doesn't convey the nusances of the game that can only been seen while playing hands on. After making your first wooden sword or encountering a stalking Creeper outside your front door, you’ll begin to see that Minecraft is more than just “Legos: The Video Game”; It’s an experience all its own.

Gorgeous, isn't it? You haven't seen the half of it.

Minecraft is as “open” or “sandbox” as an open world, sandbox game is ever going to get. You can do almost anything you’d want and there are no true objectives to accomplish. Depending on what kind of gamer you are, you will either become extremely bored with game, due to the complete lack of direction, or become instantly overwhelmed with endless creativity and imagination. The latter is the more common reaction to first experiences with Minecraft, mostly because of how hard it is to put the game down once you start playing it. Again, this game isn’t about defeating any great evil, saving a princess, being the greatest in the world, or any generic goal most other titles will throw at you. Minecraft is the ultimate game to sit back, relax, and do whatever pleases you most.

At the beginning of the game, you’ll start off in a randomly generated world with nothing but a paper map in hand. From there, your own imagination is the only limitation you’ll have. Any restrictions you’ll encounter in Minecraft are through crafting items needed. Some items are harder to obtain than others, but most aren’t necessary for enjoying the game in the simplest ways possible. Where your adventuring takes you is all up in the air, making the world your own personal playground to be shaped to your liking. If you are brand new to the game, I suggest running the tutorial to get a hands-on approach to the world of Minecraft. The Tutorial is a new addition to the game that the PC version doesn’t offer for its players, so it’s best to take full advantage of it.

As the name states, mining and crafting specific items require knowledge of the right materials needed to make and find them. For the most part, the game is pretty open about how to find these materials and their uses. Small, pop up text boxes will appear when you discover new things, giving you a brief overview of what they are used for and can be very helpful when discovering uncommon resources. Crafting these items together is also made much easier in the Xbox 360 Edition, as the game doesn’t force you to place the objects in the correct position on the crafting table to be crafted properly like in the PC version. Basically everything is automatic on the 360, as long as you have the right amount of items need to make the object. This is a blessing for the average console gamer and his limited thumb stick control scheme.

Each additional player gets a different rendition of Steve, "The Minecraft Guy".

With well organized interfaces, tutorials, and in-game features, I can’t think of a better game to play co-op with  than Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition. It’s simple enough to give beginners a solid start to the game’s mechanics without being totally overwhelmed, but also expansive enough to keep experienced Minecraft players constantly on the move and surprisingly entertained. The gameplay is anything you decide to make of it, so whatever you or your partners want to do, whether that be adventuring, mining for diamonds, hunting chickens, constructing massive structures, everything will become twice as fun with someone else beside you joining in.

The perk of playing with multiple people makes the amount of time to collect resources (some being extremely scarce) that much smaller. Splitting up the workload between players can allow more tedious chores, such as collecting lumber or cow hides, to be carried out more quickly than any one person could do by themselves. There is also safety in numbers. Say your party wants to continue to scavenge the surrounding area during nighttime, when exploding Creepers and other baddies tend to spawn and aim to murder you. Having more than one sword around to fend off aggressors can be a lifesaver when dealing with hordes of zombies or skeleton archers hot on your tail.

Beginning a co-op game is very simple to do and the game takes care of almost everything for you automatically. When you boot up your online server, make sure your co-op partners are logged in and ready to go and the game will prompt the leader to begin a co-op game automatically; quick and easy. You can also host a game with other online players who aren't split-screening with you, making combo co-op a prime feature of Minecraft: Xbox Live Edition. There are, however, a couple of restrictions to the co-op mode that players should be aware of before playing:

-Local co-op requires an HDTV. Standard definition TVs are not compatible with split-screen play.

-Your co-op partners MUST be either a Gold Subscribed Xbox Live Members or on Guest profiles. Silver accounts will only work in offline games.

-Only players on your Xbox Live Friends List (up to 4 players split-screening plus 4 online players, 8 total) can play in the same server together. This is to deter griefers from coming in and destroying all of your hard work.

Although I have many good things to say about this XBLA title, there are some minor downsides to playing with others on the same screen, or even in a large multiplayer setting, that hinders Minecraft: Xbox Live Edition slightly:

1). Split-screening will make the small, pixilated descriptive texts hard to make out, even with a large TV screen. Therefore, playing with only 1 to 2 players is the most ideal way to play split-screen co-op (Your eyes will thank you later).

2). Players will not be able to take items from other save files or other servers to any other server, even if it's one of their own. Essentially, they’ll come into a game naked, only with a map.

3). Exchanging items between players can only be performed by dropping them on the ground and allowing another to pick them up or taking items from chests, which everyone can access. This can make misplacing or even losing rare items a small problem if players aren’t careful.

4). Players will be able to access everything outside of each other’s personal inventories, making griefing still a possibility. Friendly fire is also a factor when playing with others.

Despite these minor hindrances, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is one of the best games to play cooperatively with children, friends, relatives, or with a group of your closest online companions. For only 1600 MS points (less than the PC version’s price point), this game has loads to offer and has one of the greatest replay values of any game I’ve seen. There are also plenty of challenging achievements to unlock, as well as the addition of various Avatar awards to earn and Minecraft-out your Xbox Live avatar. While the argument of the PC version having much more content than the 360 version might seem like a strong argument for not buying this game, don’t be too hasty to let it pass by. Free updates will be made periodically to keep the console Minecrafters up to date and happily satisfied, bringing more content and features that will make the 360 Version on par (if not already) with its PC brother.

Minecraff: Xbox 360 Edition is, undoubtedly, one of the most innovative games of this generation, bringing new meaning to the term “open world” and co-op gaming on the console platform. This game is the must play XBLA co-op title of 2012, so don't miss out! Download the free trial today (Co-op play isn't available in the trial version, unfortunately) and see what all the hype is about!