Game essentials: Minecraft
We take a closer look at the App Store’s must-play games.
Create, explore and survive!
If you’ve not played Minecraft, you’ve almost certainly heard of it. And if you haven’t, we’ll just assume you’ve been living off the grid for the past few years.
The multi-award-winning title is a true phenomenon: a sandbox game without compare, an infinite world of wild and wonderful adventures, and one of the most flexible and approachable creative tools you’ll ever encounter.
Yet summing up its appeal isn’t as easy as you might think. Some would say it’s essentially an enormous bucket of digital LEGO, which to a point is true – at heart, it’s a really fun and absorbing (and gently educational) way to construct just about anything you can imagine, all with the simplest of building blocks.
In the game’s Creative Mode, you’re free to do this without pressure: all the resources of the world are yours to do with as you please. With enough materials, time and patience, the possibilities are just about endless. Over the years, Minecraft players have built a wide range of astonishing constructions, from the Taj Mahal to a blocky recreation of Westeros from Game of Thrones.
But projects of that scale are probably a touch ambitious if you’re new to the game. Either way, you never forget your first proper Minecraft build: you’ll always remember that warm sense of satisfaction at having made something with your own two hands. And before long you’ll gain the confidence to add more decorative flourishes: you can turn a basic house into a comfortable home without too much effort.
A place to shelter is essential for the game’s Survival Mode, which is where Minecraft really began. It takes its name, in fact, from the two key tasks it sets you: you need to explore the world to mine resources, which you’ll then use to craft essential items. These in turn let you explore further and survive longer, as the further reaches of the world open up to you.
The ability to harvest natural resources and combine them to make tools taps into something primal, which partly explains why the mode has kept millions of players coming back for more.
When you’re striding forth into uncharted biomes, you feel like a daring adventurer. And when you return home to experiment with the materials you’ve gathered, you feel like an unhinged scientist.
Sometimes you’ll have to work hard to thrive in what can be a hostile world – the floating Ghasts and hissing, explosive Creepers are just two enemies that make each journey treacherous, though before long you’ll have crafted bows and swords to deal with them. But no survival game quite lets you enjoy the fruits of your labour like Minecraft.
Whichever mode you favour, it needn’t be a solitary experience, either. Many hands make light work – whether you’re taking down the Ender Dragon or embarking upon an elaborate construction project, it’s a wonderfully social experience to share with friends.
You can even enliven your game with the help of players you don’t know, thanks to a store that places user-created templates, skins, textures and even entire worlds within reach. And if you’re not satisfied with just a new look, you’re free to make your own set of rules – even enabling cheats if you’re that way inclined.
There’s so much more that we’ve only really scratched the surface here. But then Minecraft is a bit like The Matrix: you can be told what it is, but ultimately you really have to experience it for yourself.