Indie gaming sensation Minecraft has made the leap from PC to portable devices, and guess what? It’s not on iOS, it’s on Android. This is big news. Big, Minecraft-shaped news.
There’s precious little on the Android Marketplace that’s unique to the platform. Usually, it just receives ports from the App Store of populist tat like Angry Blah. But this, this is the motherlode, important enough to make a gamer spit with rage and dash their iPhone on a rock.
Of course, it’s only a temporary state of affairs. Minecraft - Pocket Edition was originally exclusive to the Sony Xperia Play smartphone, which runs on Android, and now it’s trickling out to the wider market. In months to come, it’ll be available on the App Store too.
But until that day, Android has a platform exclusive to cheer about.
It’s a scaled down version of the original Minecraft. You’re marooned on an eerie island, and you shape the surrounding landscape according the whacked-out whims of your fevered brain.
Combine elements to form blocks, and use those blocks to build structures into whatever you like. Assemble your blocks into a gigantic, vintage Game Boy, and park it in a field. Or perhaps you’d prefer something more subtle and dignified, like a scale replica of the Taj Mahal.
What’s missing -- currently -- is a survival mode, which robs the game of any urgency. In the proper version, you work according to a day/night cycle; as night falls, you have to protect yourself against predatory beasties using fire and human ingenuity.
Without this survival mode, Minecraft - Pocket Edition is essentially a creative sandbox, where the pleasure is derived from building and sharing your unusual creations with your fellow minecrafters. In this world, “if you believe, you can achieve” is the mantra.
It’s Minecraft, and it’s on your smartphone. What’s not to like?
Developed by Mojang, the same team behind the non-pocket edition, this is an authentic offshoot using the same, distinctively blocky graphics we’ve come to know and love. Further development will ensure that new features and refinements -– like the survival mode -– will be added further down the track.
This could be the moment where Minecraft goes critical mass with a mainstream audience. It’s already big, sure, but only within the realm of PC gamers and Xperia Play owners. Now the casual gamer can dip an exploratory toe into the pixellated waters, and they’ll surely be as hooked as the rest of us.
Finally, lest we forget, this is an Android exclusive. It’s a temporary situation, sure, but a major exclusive nonetheless. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, App Store.
Update: Oh dear, it looks like last-minute bugs have delayed the launch. Fingers crossed it pops up soon.
Minecraft - Pocket Edition costs £4.29 and is available on Android Marketplace. [Android Marketplace]