Minecraft: A World In Your Pocket

The world is vast, laid out as a landscape filled with the hard, straight edges of digital grass, stones, sand and trees. I continue my climb to the nearest mountain peak. This will be a good place for it. The land spreads out far below — the ocean in the distance, the hills to the left and the white fog that shows the limits of my visibility. This will be a good place to build my castle.

I start with a single, narrow path that heads straight out from the mountain — a bridge to the sky. Next, I build out a wider platform on top of which I will create the foundation of stone and wood. Arched doorways, long halls, wide sitting rooms, flickering torches, hidden passageways, deep tunnels — a spectacular monument is formed.

It’s called Minecraft, and if you haven’t heard about it yet, you’re about to.

The Story

In May of 2009, Markus Persson, a Swedish game developer, began working on Minecraft. Almost two-and-a-half years later in November of 2011, the finished game was released to the fanfare of the first ever Minecon in Las Vegas.

In those few years, the simple sandboxing game of blocks and monsters grew a massive user base — over 3 million. The only thing it apparently lacked was a way for these dedicated (addicted?) fans to continue their world-creating on their mobile devices. The solution was Minecraft: Pocket Edition, which was released on various platforms in August 2011, and finally reached iOS in November during Minecon.

Starting Out

Minecraft: Pocket Edition (or simply Minecraft PE) is available in the app store as either a free “lite” version or a paid “full” version. The lite version will get you into the basic gameplay, but limits your palette to only 18 of the 36 blocks. Also, the paid version will allow you to save your maps, while the lite version does not.

When you open the game, you will see the title menu with three options: Join Game, Start Game or Options. Join Game will let you play with others over a local Wi-Fi network. Start Game will either build you your randomly generated world, or, if you purchased the full version, will give you a menu with your saved worlds and the option to create a new world. And I’ll talk more about the Settings page towards the end of this review.

Three options are available on the Main Menu screen.

Three options are available on the Main Menu screen.

The Gameplay

When you select Start Game, you’ll end up in a digital landscape that is yours for the shaping. With the paid version, you will have the option to create a new world, or to open an existing saved game. With the lite version, you will be taken straight to a random terrain (If you have never played Minecraft before, you can skip the next paragraph and just get into the gameplay principles below).

Create a new game, or open an existing saved game.

Create a new game, or open an existing saved game.

Name your new world.

Name your new world.

For those already familiar with the desktop or online versions of Minecraft, you will be comfortable right away with the touch version of the game, but you may be disappointed to see a lack of the complete features that you are used to such as mobs, items and crafting. Do not fear however, as these are planned for future versions.

For those new to the game, the principles of gameplay are basically to form a world by either removing or placing stones, ladders, torches, flowers, vines, and more. Walk around to explore and shape the environment around you. At first, that may sound limited, but the possibilities are surprisingly great with the 36-block palette, the randomly generated terrain and an active imagination and the game quickly and surprisingly becomes very addicting.

A fresh, new world to build in.

A fresh, new world to build in.

The most basic action is to place new blocks. You have an immediate selection of three different block types available at the bottom of your screen from which you can choose a block and then just touch the surface of any existing block to add a new one.

The second action is to remove existing blocks. This is done by pressing and holding on the block that you want to remove. Denser elements such as stone require a longer press to delete, while torches or ladders take only a brief moment before they disappear.

Create structures by adding and deleting blocks.

Create structures by adding and deleting blocks.

Of course, you don’t just want to add and remove the blocks in your immediate surroundings, so there is a directional pad on the lower left-hand corner of the screen that you can use to move your character around and explore the world. You can also rotate the camera view by dragging and pulling your other hand around anywhere else on the screen.

To change the block types that are accessible in your action menu, choose the button with the “…” on it. This will bring up a screen with the palette of blocks. Choose one, and it will take the first position in your bottom bar. Then, tap Done in the upper right-hand corner and you will be taken back to the game.

The Palette Menu with the blocks available to build with.

The Palette Menu with the blocks available to build with.

Tips and Tricks

There are two different viewing modes in Minecraft: a first-person and a third-person view. Each mode comes in handy in different situations, and it’s simple to switch between them. During gameplay, choose the button with the “…” and above the palette of blocks, you can choose the Menu button from the left-hand corner. The main game menu is listed in the center of the page, and there are two small buttons in the upper left-hand corner. The first button will mute or activate the sound. The second button will toggle between first-person and third-person viewing modes.

Toggle sound and point-of-view settings.

Toggle sound and point-of-view settings.

The third person point-of-view can be useful for viewing your world from a different perspective.

The third person point-of-view can be useful for viewing your world from a different perspective.

It is possible to create “floating” structures that are not attached to any other surfaces and appear to be hanging in the sky. To do this, build out from some high location, create the floating structure and then remove all of the surrounding blocks. The structure will then stay in place and you’ll only be able to get back to it by building either a tower or a bridge.

Ladders can be used to make a quick ascent to the top of one of your structures. Be careful though, because if you go off the side of the ladder, you’ll fall back to where you started.

Torches can be helpful for illuminating dark spaces such as hallways or tunnels, but they are also useful for making certain areas of your structures stand out from the rest.

Options

From the main title menu, you can access the Options page. Here you can set up your multiplayer settings, adjust the quality of the graphics, and modify the sensitivity and dominant hand.

The Options screen can adjust multiplayer, graphics, and other settings.

The Options screen can adjust multiplayer, graphics, and other settings.

Conclusion

From simple square huts to towering castles, Minecraft PE allows you to explore the possibilities of digital creation. Also, due to the nature of the gameplay, Minecraft is a great way to spend a few minutes of downtime, or an entire evening of gaming.

Also, if you enjoy Minecraft PE and haven’t tried it out on the desktop, head over to minecraft.com to buy it and expand your block-building possibilities!


Summary

Imagine it, build it. Create worlds on the go with Minecraft: Pocket Edition Minecraft - Pocket Edition allows you to build on the go. Use blocks to create masterpieces as you travel, hangout with friends, sit at the park, the possibilities are endless. Move beyond the limits of your computer and play Minecraft everywhere you go.

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