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Minecraft Review

publisher: Mojang
developer: Mojang
genre: Adventure

ESRB rating: E

release date: May 10, 09
» All About Minecraft on ActionTrip

Minecraft's Alpha version, released in 2009, marked the beginning of a new chapter in gaming. It was the birth of what quickly became the most important video game phenomenon yet. Yes, that's right. I think it's safe to say that Minecraft might very well be more important than all the Half-Lives, Fallouts, WoWs and Skyrims. Now, don't misunderstand; I'm not saying this is the best game ever made, nor that you're a fool if you dislike it. What I am saying is that Minecraft fulfilled a need that was left unsatisfied by every other title so far. And I can't imagine why it took so long for something like it to be made. Up until Minecraft's release, we played predominantly violent and competitive games. We were restricted by genres and even sandbox games were ultimately about killing stuff. Then one fine day we woke up with new tools in our hands. These tools allowed us to express ourselves in a way we weren't quite accustomed to. But we learned fast and the gaming landscape would never be the same.

We built things before in real-time strategies, tycoons, god games, etc., but all we did was buy ready-made structures and place them on the map. In Minecraft there are no restrictions. You can create almost anything you can think of, from the ground up. Happily, gamers everywhere responded to the freedom they were given and countless virtual creations emerged - a functioning calculator, entire cities (underwater or floating among the clouds), a giant meteor frozen in its moment of impact, a life-sized replica of the Enterprise, levels from other games, a fleet of battleships and so on. The world of gaming seems to have changed. Now we were less impressed by whoever had the most frags in Call of Duty. Minecraft opened the door to creative thinking, so gunning down opponents in a mindless shooter suddenly seemed obsolete.

So, where did this game come from? Well, we wouldn't even have a Minecraft, at least not in its current form, without a little game called Infiniminer. Created by Zachary Barth, the man behind the recently successful SpaceChem, Infiniminer served as the main inspiration for Minecraft's daddy, the by now famous Markus 'Notch' Persson. A Swedish cuddly bear, Notch could have done pretty good as a Santa Claus impersonator, but instead he chose to work on Minecraft. He can now afford to rent private jets instead of fake sleighs and gamers all over the world can thank him for starting (more or less intentionally) what can only be called a gaming revolution. He's even ok with you pirating his game, as long as you buy it eventually. Yeah, I didn't mention Santa for nothing.

As for the game itself, well, you could say it inspires you to create the most incredible things. Not surprisingly, the most jaw-dropping creations in Minecraft are always attacked by envious individuals who throw around phrases like "you have no life" and "you're crazy to put so much effort into this." Nonsense, I say! Building something cool in Minecraft takes less time than you'd think. And if you want to wow the world with something truly extraordinary, you can do it with the aid of friends, over the course of days or weeks, by spending no more time than someone who plays, well, any other video game out there. I know that if I had a son, I'd much rather see him building a replica of Minas Tirith, than getting an achievement for stabbing 1000 zombies in the ass (Hm, that does sound like a particularly challenging achievement - Ed. Vader).

Other excellent games have made significant advancements in storytelling, graphics and gameplay, but in the end, most of these games wind up in the 'kill this' and 'blow up that' territory. Ya know, the old "kill, sneak and persuade our way to badassdom" routine. Minecraft doesn't have a story. At first glance, its graphics look like something only its developer could love. When I first heard the name, I thought "great, yet another douchebag wants a piggyback ride on World of Warcraft's fame." But in Minecraft you really do mine a lot, and use the raw materials to craft tools, weapons, furniture and more exotic items like a compass or jukebox that plays records that you can find in your travels. Minecraft's soundtrack is sublime and fits the game like a glove. Composer C418 created a delicate minimalist soundscape that rarely interrupts the silence, and when it does, it makes you want to stop and listen. The music fuses perfectly with the simple visuals. Both are modest on the outside, but something more once you get to know them.

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9.2   Excellent

The first true sandbox game, enjoy your freedom;

Constantly searching the Web for crafting recipes, some might object to the absence of an actual storyline and a sense of purpose.


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