Being a pretty big fan of Mojang's Minecraft, I was very excited to hear that Minecraft – Pocket Edition (PE) was receiving a large update. The previous version, Minecraft PE 8.0, had seemed a bit claustrophobic to me. The edges of the world were clearly visible and one only had a space about the size of an island on which to play. I found that the lack of trees, paired with the flatness of the space made the oncoming night less scary. Creepers and spiders were visible from far enough off that I could keep a good distance and there were few enough of them that I could fight them without being overwhelmed. The size issue also made finding materials to work with frustrating. I was frequently crippled by a lack of coal. Lightless, bereft of any cooked meat, and unable to cobble together even a pair of leather shoes, I wandered my small island with nothing to do except contemplate its emptiness.
The Minecraft PE 9.0 Update is a significant upgrade. It is much more in-line with the PC version of Minecraft, with its infinite maps and more densely populated environments. The first time night fell, I was terrifyingly aware of the fact that I was standing in a forest and I could not see further than a few feet; the sound of hissing growing closer and closer. The landscape is certainly more robust. Where I spent an hour looking for coal in the previous release, in 9.0 I had no problem finding a bevy of ores, including newly-added blocks such as: Diorite, Granite, and Andesite. The variety of biomes that are now included also add to the feeling of wondrous exploration that the PC version captures so well, but which the 8.0 PE edition was lacking. I climbed a high hill one morning to find a small village just a short distance from where I was beginning to build a fort for myself. I ran towards the village and was delighted to find villagers. That moment of discovery was exciting, and speaks to the heart of the Minecraft experience.
It is amazing how much the presence of NPCs changes the feel of the game; no longer am I a stranger carving out a life in solitude. Unfortunately you cannot interact with them yet in any meaningful way except to attack; trading with villagers has yet to be implemented. However, to further banish loneliness, wolves can now be tamed; loyally following you through thick and thin.
I am really happy that Mojang is continuing to make the app more robust. Minecraft – Pocket Edition 9.0 has come a long way from its alpha release back in 2011, and with all the new content that has been added, Minecraft PE is finally living up to its namesake.