Minecraft Pocket: Yup… It’s Minecraft
Attn. fellow Minecraft Dorks: I’m pleased to report the mobile version of our beloved Mojang Juggernaut, Minecraft Pocket Edition, is rock-solid. You’re not going to be able to do a crazy faithful recreation of Winterfell in the game — At least, not without some major compromises — but the game’s still really, really fun. The magic’s there.
Something about the tunneling in Minecraft has always fascinated me. Nothing pleases me more than to pull a manchild and stay up all night building a new underground stronghold. Despite the limited level size, Pocket Edition let me transpose the addiction on my Galaxy SIII. Though I couldn’t figure out a way to take screencaps — the standard handswipe motion changes your weapon hand — rest assured, you can make some pathetically awesome stuff here. Things that make you stop and think “I’m 30,” feel bad about it for a second, then get back to work.
Two hours of playtime and the controls were almost second nature, though the bizarre hotbar management scheme still occasionally made me want to spike my phone. Combat, too, could get a little frantic, but that’s the case in the PC version as well, so I can’t say for sure the touchscreen was at fault there.
Particularly useful are the smart jumping controls, which (for the most part) are pretty good at telling whether you want to vault or stop at that upcoming block. Mining blocks is as easy as holding down on the target. Combat is much the same. In general, the game felt fluid and fast as the original, though it did suffer a bit on my Iconia Tab with lag and slowdown issues.
The defining six-sided blocks that make up Minecraft’s world on a phone screen just as well as they do on a PC, though the latter version obviously has several more options to tweak. I actually encountered fewer visual bugs than I remember seeing on the desktop version, which was a nice bonus. I can’t say that’s due to a more standardized product or some other factor, however.
I’m not sure how I feel about the streamlined crafting process. Instead of dumping you on an island making you figure out how to chop the wood that makes the boards that make the crafting table on your own, it gives you a menu. The resources are still largely the same, and I can’t say I missed having to do the click-drag shuffle any time I wanted to build a chest or a furnace, but it just didn’t feel right. So much of minecraft is about discovery. How it’s different than going online and looking up how to build something, I can’t say… but it is.
Likewise, the actual number of things you can craft — and the things you craft them with — are a little less varied in the mobile version. It wasn’t as bad as I anticipated, but I definitely noticed it. I also noticed earlier resources, like coal, were a bit harder to come across in general. If it was the luck of the draw, it happened over the course of a few different maps.
That all said, I didn’t find a single limitation I hadn’t prepared myself for — or, as I said, one that came close to meeting my incorrect assumptions of how hobbled the game would be. Besides the hotbar thing (which I assume is more due to my lack of understanding) and the crafting thing (which is not), this is as faithful a port as you could ask for. It doesn’t hit every note, but it certainly hits all the high ones.The $7 pricetag might seem a little steep, but you get way more than a third of the PC experience for around a third of the $20 cost.
It’s close enough to the predecessor that I’d recommend it to everyone from hardcore players to those just looking to test the game out. It hooked me, and I’ve bored myself of its predecessor many times over — that’s saying something.