Minecraft’s success has been unprecedented. Born from the minds at a Swedish development studio that had dared to dream big, their creativity-inducing sandbox game has become nothing short of a worldwide sensation. But, at a time when only Tetris and Wii Sports have outpaced it in the best-selling video games ranking, Minecraft: Wii U Edition arrives fashionably late to the party.
That isn’t to say we aren’t grateful, but, having now racked up more than 72 million sales worldwide, it graces the Nintendo eShop at a time when those riddled with intrigue will most likely already purchased it on another platform. However, let’s cast that problem aside and talk you through what this new Minecraft: Wii U Edition has to offer.
Mojang treat their creation to the simplest of introductions, explaining that it is a game about placing blocks to build anything you can imagine and warning that monsters will come out at night. Your first objective is therefore simple, in building a shelter before darkness falls.
For newcomers, an optional tutorial can gently talk you through all the gameplay basics. That touches on mining, crafting and foraging for food as you fend for your survival. There’s a lot to take in, but it’s fairly simple to grasp and the universal appeal that Minecraft has achieved is a clear indication of just how easy it is to get stuck in.
Once you have created your world, you have the choice to play in Creative or Survival modes. As they sound, Creative provides immediate access to all blocks to let you build without restriction, whereas Survival requires that you source everything yourself and are at a near constant threat from monsters.
In this hardened mode, players can find the experience less forgiving with each demise seeing you lose any gathered equipment. It can be tough, but both modes cater to the wide audience that Minecraft has been able to attract. Seething frustration at marauding spiders catching you off guard can soon be relaxed by simply delving into the delights at creating monstrously sized constructions to your heart’s content.
The world’s size is in line with that seen in Minecraft on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, which falls far short of the more grandiose scale seen on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. But, it’s a large enough playground to live out your creative dreams, providing a wide open space populated by randomly generated terrain, plants and animals. There’s an irrepressible sense of discovery as you scout out your surroundings, uncovering caves, untouched forests and desolate deserts that all seem to have their own story to tell. And that’s the beauty of it, because it’s all down to the player to interpret the world in which they have been placed.
It’s an experience that can be shared, too. Three more players can join your adventure locally with a Wii U Pro Controller, but Minecraft: Wii U Edition’s real joy is in taking that journey online. Eight players can explore the same world online, and with support for Voice Chat and USB Keyboards it presents a communicative experience that the Wii U has so far distinctly lacked.
Minecraft: Wii U Edition’s clear disappointment is in the lack of Wii U GamePad integration, away from Off-TV Play. Another missed opportunity, there is a clear benefit to using the controller’s screen to simplify crafting and menu navigation, and I only hope that Nintendo may step in to provide a few pointers so that such utilisation can be patched in at a later date.
Carrying an elevated price tag in comparison to other platforms, several add-on content packs are included within the price. That doesn’t include any of the branded packs such as The Simpsons, Doctor Who and Star Wars, so it mystifies why a vanilla version wasn’t released at a cheaper price point to allow consumers to choose where to spend the extra cost.
Minecraft: Wii U Edition provides the sandbox that everyone has come to know and love. It may have arrived late and hasn’t brought anything particularly new to the table, but we now no longer need to lament the absence of Mojang’s smash-hit on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Tested: Wii U
Review copy provided by Microsoft