Who doesn’t like Minecraft? No, seriously, tell us; we’ll fight them. We’ll also have a choice word or two for whoever decided to put Minecraft – Pocket Edition up for sale in its current state.
In case it’s your first day on the Internet in like a year, there’s an indie sandbox game called Minecraft that has pretty much set the world on fire. Even though it’s just getting its official release today, it’s already sold more than four million copies. Four million. Yeah. So the company behind Minecraft, Mojang, isn’t one you need to feel charitable towards when you see the $6.99 price tag on their iOS app, especially when it’s so underwhelming.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
Even though there’s a paid version of Minecraft on PCs, there’s also a free version known as Minecraft Classic. It’s available to play in your browser on the official Minecraft website. Much like this mobile game, there are no resources to gather, items to craft, or enemies to protect yourself from. The world also is also finite in both the Classic and mobile versions, unlike the (nearly) limitless main game. Our problem is that Minecraft for iOS is less appealing than the version Mojang gives away for free.
Now, Minecraft has an aesthetic that some people might call ugly, but most of us find it charming and maybe even beautiful. The vast, procedurally-generated expanses you encounter combined with the vibrant color palette make for the kind of singular experience that Minecraft has been celebrated for.
Minecraft – Pocket Edition, on the other hand, is like an ugly, cloudy day in the Minecraft multiverse. The draw distance is very short, and there’s a thick, grey fog obscuring the boundaries of what is being rendered. There’s no skybox, and hitting the edge of the world (which doesn’t take long) feels jarring.
It’s like a glitch version of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It’s not all bad, though. The game controls really well, better than we would have expected. You’ll automatically jump up onto surfaces one block higher than where you started, and you can create and destroy things with just one finger. Popping blocks into the world by tapping on the screen is satisfying in a very visceral way, and we’re impressed that Mojang was able to come up with such an elegant control scheme for a game that started as a first-person mouse-and-keyboard game. You can control your avatar in either first- or third-person view, as well.
If the price was lower, it’d be easier not to be offended by Minecraft – Pocket Edition’s shortcomings. This release costs about one-quarter of the desktop game’s full price, but it doesn’t feel like it’s close to a quarter of the amount of fun. If this is what Minecraft needs to be to run on a phone, maybe it should just stay off of our pocket-sized devices. It’s possible that Mojang put this out before they should have as a reaction to Junk Jack, but–even though Minecraft is the sandbox mining game and it feels wrong to say this–you’d probably be better off getting a copycat for a dollar.