App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S
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Few indie success stories are as noteworthy as that of Minecraft. Swedish developer Markus "Notch" Persson went from virtual obscurity to game industry household name in less than two years on the strength of this PC sandbox construction juggernaut. Notch and his team at Mojang just held the first official MineCon convention a couple of weekends ago in Las Vegas, which also served as a release party for the final 1.0 PC version and the iOS port of Minecraft - Pocket Edition (released on Android earlier this year). But does this portable version capture the same kind of magic that its big brother has?
In short, not really.
To begin with, this is still an alpha build; version 0.1.2, to be exact. All that’s currently available is an open creation mode with a pre-determined selection of blocks, much like the original PC alpha. Things are also set on a much smaller map, taking about a minute to navigate one side of the perimeter. It’s enough to allow a basic understanding of the concept of building things in Minecraft, but not much else. If someone familiar with the original picks it up, expecting to find resource gathering, crafting, creatures and other staples, they’re going to be disappointed.
Likewise, people experiencing Minecraft for the first time, unaware of its “pay more upfront, fund a constant stream of updates” business model, are very likely to feel ripped off and will probably wonder what all of the hype was about. $6.99 for what is currently on offer as of this review is a bit steep. If Mojang wanted to set the final price point at seven bucks, why not just keep the game on sale? They could slowly raise the price toward the ultimate goal as features were added and would likely sell a heck of a lot more copies to potential new fans.
Still, at least the interface is smooth and the basics of placing and destroying blocks translates to mobile better than I expected. Also, the local multiplayer (which is cross-platform with Android) worked pretty well in the small bit of testing I was able to do with a friend. So at the very least, there’s that much.
Mojang’s Daniel Kaplan stated that the initial release was to make sure the core Minecraft experience worked on a mobile platform before adding on more, which means that with time updates could be inbound. However, we can’t evaluate a game on what it has the potential to become.
For the patient, or the diehard fans, it may be worth playing the waiting game. However, if this is somebody’s first foray into the Minecraft universe, I’d advise tacking an extra Jackson on and just picking up the PC version instead. It’s a proven bet. And besides, what’s Minecraft without actual mining and the ever-present threat of Creepers?