Minecraft Cover
Platforms Windows, OSX, Linux
Genre Crafting sandbox
MtAMinutes to Action 1
Keep Playing? Yes

Initially, Humble Indie Bundle 3 was only five videogames for whatever price you deemed worthy: Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, And Yet It Moves, and Hammerfight. After a day or two, a free pass for Markus “Notch” Persson's Minecraft was added, allowing HIB3 buyers to play the blocks-laden indie game until August 14, 2011. This might have had something to do with the fact that Notch was/is one of the top contributors to the cause, dropping well over $4,000 for a handful of games he surely already owns. But it's easy to figure out why he'd support indie games like so, and giving the wary a free looksie into his own thriving title is a smart decision.

For some time now, I've been interested in Minecraft. Take note that I did not say interested in playing Minecraft, as the two statements are actually very different. Just interested. From the outside, it looks like a creative, germinal, easy-to-play game that is just asking you to open it up and go nuts. Plus, y'know, I grew up on Lego blocks. It's just plain ol' nature here, stacking and breaking blocks galore and building crazy fortresses loaded from ceiling to cellar with booby-traps. However, Minecraft could also share the same problems many other open-world games have, where there is ultimately little purpose.

At E3 2011, it was announced that Minecraft was coming to the Xbox 360, my preferred gaming console. For now, I'll be giving the game a swing on my Macbook, and hopefully it can handle everything. It's struggled to run other games from Humble Indie Bundle 3 (and previous iterations). I am and always will be a console gamer though so if I do enjoy my time here, I'll more than likely download it from Xbox Live Arcade whenever it becomes available.

Guess that's enough up-front stuff. Let's give Minecraft an hour of my time and see if we can build anything.

Minute by Minute

00 – Main menu screen. Still in Beta phase. We have “Singleplayer” (yeah, missing a space there), “Multiplayer,” “Mods and Texture Packs,” and “Options.” For multiplayer to work, I need to enter an IP address. Nothing too exciting under options so it's got to be singleplay (without a space). Time to create a new world. Let's call it...Bumblebuzz. There's an option to name the seed for the world generator, which I don't understand so I'm leaving it blank. A message box pops up, claims to be “building terrain” and all that jazz...

01 – The in-game world pops up before me in chunks, first the bluest blue sky, then an almost Floridian beach, grass, and indistinguishable things in the distance. There's something swimming in the water. A blocky, empty hand hangs before the screen, ready to punch or pick up things. Pressing [E] brings up my inventory, which is pretty bare, and there's a representation of Minecraft me. I'm totally a blockhead. Can't customize him at all.

Minecraft Paul Abbamondi Beach

03 – Not sure where to go. Seems like a huge map-space. Walked a little to my left, off the beach and over to a tiny island. There's nothing here. Those things swimming in the water are octopuses, I think, and thankfully they do not seem violent towards me.

04 – Found some pigs, cows, and pumpkins. Punching the pumpkins results in getting a pumpkin block in my hand, which I then used to punch apart more pumpkins.

06 – Okay, I can see a really tall landscape in the distance with a humongous tree at the tippy-top. Kinda want to get up there. Also looks like that's where sheep hang out, too.

Minecraft Paul Abbamondi Landscape

08 – Well, it was just a big hill with a tree on it. Thought there might be more to it, but no. I punched the trunk to pieces and collected several blocks of wood. Strangely, the top part of the tree remains floating in the air even without a trunk to hold it up. Can't really make sense of that, but whatever. Gravity is for scientists. I take in a panoramic view of Bumblebuzz in all its trixel glory.

09 – No idea what I'm supposed to be doing. Minecraft has Achievements so let's see if they can give me an idea of what's what. One mentions collecting wood and then making a workbench. From there, we can make other items, such as a pickaxe and hoe.

11 – Took me a bit to figure out how to make a workbench. Had to break down wood into planks and then arrange them in a specific way. Crafting further items requires you to place them in the workbench box in a way that represents how the tool will ultimately look. Kind of hard to explain.

14 – Learned how to toggle fog on and off. The [F] button. Seems like turning it on makes Minecraft run better on my machine. Will leave it on then as there's only so much my Mac can do with these games. At least there's less lag when I spin or turn fast with the mouse. That was a problem for a bit.

15 – The sky is beginning to darken. Oooh...

17 – Okay, it's getting dark fast. Much like in games such as Fallout 3 and L.A. Noire, I hate adventuring at night as I have very bad eyesight and some games can get really covered in black and shroud, disorienting me instantly. I usually end up waiting for the sun to rise to continue on. Hopefully it doesn't take fifteen minutes though.

18 – From my floating treetop, I can thinly see something appear on the beach. It's gray, skeletal, and moving around. Hope it doesn't know how to climb hills.

19 – Great. The monster is climbing, and climbing my way. It's a little past midnight, and I am sitting here in my stuffy apartment in total darkness, playing Minecraft in its own gloomy darkness, in total silence, watching this strange creature hop its way up the hill. I arm myself with a wooden hoe, knowing hope is futile if this comes down to a fight.

Minecraft Paul Abbamondi Game Over

20 – Suddenly, there's a twang. I'm attacked from behind. A second arrow is loosed, knocking me off my lofty perch, and as I fall, I glimpse my attacker—another skeletal figure. I hit the ground and die instantly. My score is &e0. Whatever that means. Two options: respawn or title menu. I feel like I just got duped by a bunch of velociraptors like Muldoon in Jurassic Park.

Respawned somewhere on the beach again. It's still night time, and I have nothing in my inventory. Weapons, blocks, sticks—all gone. This has quickly and without warning turned into a survival horror game. Panic sets in.

21 – I see some cows and sheep over yonder. Since they are unharmed, I'm taking a chance and assuming I'd be safe with them. Nope. Some bouncy green thing attacks me, dropping me down to two hearts, but I managed to punch it until it exploded. So that's good.

23 – Funk this. I'm digging a hole. I punch through the dirt a good four or five blocks deep and get comfy. Sorry, readers, this is gonna get a bit boring here.

Minecraft Paul Abbamondi Hole

26 – The sky is brightening! Praise almighty! I'm digging and jumping my way back to the surface. Hopefully all the monsters are gone, and hopefully I can find a way to heal myself. Those two measly remaining hearts make me nervous. I don't want to lose all my stuff again.

27 – Died again. Managed to take a snapshot of my murderer. Some greenish zombie dude (not one of those on fire) saw me emerge and charged right at me. I officially suck at Minecraft.

28 – Respawned right in front of a monster. This time I charged ahead, nothing but my fist, holding down the punch button. It knocked some health off a me, but it's easy to see who was the real winner here: it dropped a feather, which is now ALL MINE.

Minecraft Paul Abbamondi run Away

32 – Just wandering around now, gathering resources. Found some additional feathers and bones scattered randomly on the ground. Wish I remembered where I had built my first workbench so I could store some things in it for safe-keeping.

35 – Okay, I really don't want to have to spend another night in a hole so let's see if I can't at least build four walls and a way to keep these monsters at bay. I'm on top of another fairly tall hill.

36 – Destroying the crap out of the floating treetop over my new homeland. Running out of wood though. Can't imagine that dirt or gravel would really keep monsters out, but who knows. Not too many other options left.

38 – Asdfghjkl. It got dark again. I basically built a wall around me, and now we wait. Shh...

40 – Something is walking around right outside my makeshift wall enclosure thingy. This is beyond creepy. Can't see a thing. Relying totally on sound now for a story...

Minecraft Paul Abbamondi Sleeping

42 – The sounds these things make are creeping me the bleep out. This one monster sounds a bit like a drunk centaur angry at the economy or something.


44 – Died again. Skeletal monster with crossbow was relentless, chasing me across the water. At least this time I had nothing in my inventory to lose. Do I really need to resort to digging a hole again to survive the night? Sigh.

47 – Oh, look. I died again. That's death #5, for those counting along at home. There's this one monster that likes to explode when you defeat it. Don't be like me and stand next to it when it 'splodes. Respawning into sunshine and blue sky. This is the Minecraft I like.

51 – Made way my back to my in-progress shelter. It's pathetic looking. Added some more walls to it, but it still needs a roof. How do I make a roof?

53 – All right, made a roof out of dirt blocks. Doesn't make sense if you asked a professional architect, but let's pray it holds up. Now it just needs a front door. Will probably need a lot of wood or sticks or planks for this. Let's go find some trees to bust up real good before it gets too dark. Worst comes to worst, I'll just enclose myself like before, but at least I'll have a ceiling over my head this time.

Minecraft Paul Abbamondi Door

57 – Made a door in literally the nick of time, as the sun drops and night prevails. This time, some kind of creepy music begins to play, like a child's musicbox stabbed with goth needles. Now inside my crappy home, waiting for death.

60 – Still inside my crappy house, waiting for something to happen. A zombie groans as it approaches. This is how my first hour with Minecraft ends, with a total cliffhanger.

Minecraft Paul Abbamondi Nice View

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 1

What I liked: I really like how Minecraft looks and plays. Its simple nature is a good thing, leading to no confusion over what button does what. The world is made up of vacation-like locales, with beaches and trees and Middle-earth-like hills the main theme here. Strangely, there isn't much to do in the game other than build things, explore, and survive monsters. It's less of a game and more of a creativity tool, which I'm cool with.

What I loved: Crafting. Once it clicks, it became very easy to see how other items could get made. I can guess that a lot of time could be sunk in crafting item after item, especially at night when you're stuck inside, hiding from monsters galore. Also have to give credit where credit is due, and this game, this wee indie title, did manage to scare the crap out of me. Good job, zombie dudes.

What I hated: Dying and night time. The two go hand-in-hand with each other, and it made the short amount of safe, bright day time all the more stressful, especially once I realized how important it was to have some kind of safe haven for when the sun dropped out of sight. And unfortunately, I did not learn about the option to turn the difficulty to “peaceful” until after the first hour was over; on peaceful difficulty, no monsters attack when it gets dark, turning Minecraft into a truly peaceful sandbox, with no fears to fear except falling and your own borders of boredom. I also wish that the game's soundtrack was more prevalent throughout, as hearing my character's boots on the dirt non-stop got old rather fast.

Would I keep playing? Yes, but I think I'm going to wait until the game releases on the Xbox 360. I'm guessing it'll have some kind of multiplayer support there (as well as, uh, Kinect), and I bet that joining a friend (or stranger) online to build crazy structures and fight off enemies could be a lot of fun. Plus, as mentioned before, I'm not a PC gamer, and I think Minecraft's controls could do well on a console, but the crafting buttons will need tweaking. Either way, I'll play a bit more on peaceful difficulty until the free trial runs out, and then I'll just wait until whenever Notch decides the Xbox 360 port is good and done to give out to the masses. Maybe on 11/11/11 when the game supposedly leaves Beta?