One of the most impressive indie sensations of the past few years has been that of Minecraft. Spend enough time on the internet and you’ll eventually run into somebody from the cult of Minecraft. What began as a creative way to waste time has blossomed into one of the largest and most successful independent PC games ever made.
That was on the PC. However, on Friday Minecraft made history by finally releasing its long-awaited Android port. For the first time ever, you can play Minecraft Pocket Edition on most any Android device. Being the huge Minecraft fan that I am, I had it downloaded within ten minutes of release (Pro Tip: Obsessively check Twitter feeds from the developers).
After spending some serious time with the Pocket Edition, the questions I had before its release have been mostly answered. Is Minecraft as addictive on Android as it is on PC? Read on to find out.
What Is Minecraft?
At its core, Minecraft is a game about creativity. Some people have even gone so far as to call it not as much of a game and more of a virtual sandbox. It’s an apt description.
The game starts by dropping you in the wilderness. There are no tutorials, no explanations, no enemies or other people, for that matter. It’s just you alone in the wilderness.
However, you eventually discover that the wilderness is not permanent. Punch a tree and it turns into a block of wood. Hit a chunk of dirt and you can collect it into your inventory. Once you have a block of dirt, that block can be placed anywhere.
That’s when the game really opens up, when you realize just how easily you can change and reshape the world. Minecraft is all about building cool stuff. If you’re the creative type who can motivate himself or herself, you’ll enjoy Minecraft.
Everybody else might not. The game is the definition of directionless. There’s no purpose, no enemy, no plot, nothing. Hence the sandbox comparison from earlier. Still, if you can keep yourself entertained with grandiose building projects, Minecraft is a ton of fun.
Minecraft Pocket Edition
Now we come to a fork in the road. I highly recommend Minecraft for PC. It’s a great game and a lot of fun. The same cannot be entirely said for the Pocket Edition.
I really wanted to like Minecraft Pocket Edition, but it has one massive, massive problem. The controls. To say that the user interface is awkward would be like saying only a little music is pirated. Trying to control your character takes some getting used to.
The good news is that basically everything else works fine. There are a couple other limitations on the Pocket Edition, but they’re nothing too vexing. MPE comes only in Creative Mode (unlimited blocks, no enemies), but that’s still a fun way to play.
The core of Minecraft, destroying and placing blocks, is also very workable. Tap a square and a block from your inventory is placed there. Tap and hold a square to destroy it.
The block placement is well made and feels smooth. Building towers and reproductions of the Enterprise from Star Trek (people like to build famous things in Minecraft, see Youtube) is just as easy as on the PC.
And of course, multiplayer. The Pocket Edition criminally omits online multiplayer, but still allows local co-op. If you have a buddy with MPE on the same WiFi network, you can both play and build in the same world.
I highly, highly recommend trying this. Minecraft is infinitely more fun with friends. Still MPE players can only play local and can’t connect to the PC version. This kind of sucks. I have a friend who lives across the United States who’s a big Minecraft fan as well. It would have been nice to play against him on MPE.
One minor loss in translation to Android is the reduced inventory. The items available in the Pocket Edition have been reduced to the bare minimum. That’s not a big deal, except for the inexcusable exclusion of dynamite. What good is building cool stuff in Minecraft Pocket Edition if you can’t blow it up?
I guess the underlying feeling that kept nagging me while playing Minecraft Pocket Edition was PC envy. Chalk it up to me being spoiled by my absurdly powerful HP Envy 14 that makes gaming a breeze, but Minecraft Pocket Edition just isn’t as good as the PC version. The original Minecraft is on version 1.8 on PC.
Look at the PC version. One of the cool parts of Minecraft is texture packs- you can download a file and swap out the graphics for the entire game. There are thousands available for download, just like the mods.
Minecraft has a prolific modding community. There’s a mod for planes, guns, pirates, scuba gear, and even diagonals (everything is normally square). People have modded Minecraft into homages to The Legend of Zelda, BioShock, Portal, and more.
All that isn’t there in the Pocket Edition. Again, this might just be me being a spoiled PC gamer, but Minecraft is a vastly superior experience on the PC than it is in its current form on Android.
However, there is good news. The game is known for its developing nature. Creator Markus “Notch” Persson stated plainly, “Minecraft will never be finished.”
What does that mean for the Pocket Edition? For one thing, an update is on the way. Notch and his crew are known for steadily improving their products. They’ve had years to work on the PC version of Minecraft, so of course the Pocket Edition will be a bit behind.
How long until MPE adds more cool stuff (like dynamite, come on) is anyone’s guess. The bottom line is that if you can struggle past the awkward controls, there’s a lot of fun to be had. Plus, it’s a pretty cheap way to get a (admittedly limited) look at the Minecraft craze if you don’t have a gaming PC.
When will Minecraft fix those dastardly controls? We don’t know, but stay tuned. Either way, the Pocket Edition is still a good way to get your creativity on while on the road.
Do you play Minecraft? If so, do you plan to download the Pocket Edition?
Download Minecraft Pocket Edition Demo.
Buy Minecraft Pocket Edition.