(CBS News) Minecraft, the 2009 PC building block title by developer Mojang, has finally hit the Xbox Live Marketplace. Finally, the Microsoft console crowd can learn what PC gamers have known for three years - or what the rest of us have known for decades - that building blocks are fun!
Chances are that at some point in your life you've played with LEGOs. Maybe you haven't played with them since you were a kid, maybe you still take them out from time to time and engross yourself in some intricate new creation or maybe you just bought your own kids their very first LEGO set (and maybe you play with them a little more than you should).
Chances are that you were super excited when you heard that games like "LEGO Batman" and "LEGO Star Wars" were being released. Chances are also pretty fair that you were disappointed to discover that the actual gameplay in these titles bear absolutely no resemblance to the experience of your favorite pastime. None of these so-called "LEGO" games ever aimed to get your creative juices flowing or allow you to construct something of your own unique design.
Enter: Minecraft. More than a simple map editor, you mine a huge randomly generated world of its resources, craft building blocks and other items from your raw materials and build to the very brink of your imagination. Even though this game is in no way affiliate with LEGO, it's everything you would have ever wanted from a LEGO game and more.
Not only do you shape and create the world around you block by block, you get to play in these environments as you defend against monsters that come out at night.
Now, building and renovating your world doesn't exactly tie to fighting these monsters in any way other than that you can obtain resources from their corpses that cannot otherwise be found. This isn't a "Far Cry" or "Halo" map editor - you're not creating arenas for their tactical influence on its first-person combat experience and the game itself doesn't center on fighting enemies. Like building an epic LEGO diorama, the goal isn't necessarily to play out scenarios with it afterwards, but to build a marvel for posterity's sake that stands as testament to your ingenuity.
This is where Minecraft's multilayer comes in to play. It's simple enough to join a friend's world, forage for resources side-by-side, cooperate to construct a monument of your combined imaginations and share your creations with others. It's a unique take on modern social gaming - it's not necessarily competitive nor is it inherently cooperative by nature. Like the game world itself that you shape to your desires, multiplayer is whatever you make of it.
The Xbox port of Minecraft does see some changes from its PC predecessor including a much needed and previously lacking tutorial and split-screen multiplayer (which has seen some controversy over its HDTV requirement). Mojang also gave a few redesigns to the crafting system and user interface that make it a much more accessible experience for new players (and doesn't require you to go hunting through online wikis for tips).
Unfortunately some of the features that have helped make Minecraft such a phenomenon didn't make the transition to the home console. Most notably, there is no "Creative Mode" in which you were given infinite resources along with the ability to fly (ironically this is the only mode available to players on mobile platforms) and, understandably, none of the wonderful mods that have cropped up over the years.
Minecraft may prove to be a different experience for different players. Some may find it to be an addicting experience - mining, crafting and creating for hours upon hours, forever building bigger and more expansive constructs. Others may find it to be a tedious exercise and may only return to their virtual playground after extensive breaks. However the game strikes you, there's no denying its simplistic appeal to our sense of imagination and our desire to create something wonderful from nothing.
Minecraft is rated E10+ for Everyone ages 10+ by the ESRB. It is available for download now on Xbox Live (other versions available for PC, iOS and Android).