After what feels like a century since the phenomenon that is Minecraft first appeared on the PC, Mojang's block-'em-up has finally dug its way onto the PlayStation 3 courtesy of 4J Studios. Its basic visual style hides a brilliantly deep, yet relatively accessible adventure that's topped off with some thoughtful little RPG elements. Chances are, if you haven't yet sunk your pickaxe into the popular title's cube-centric world, then you soon will.
The closest thing that's been available on Sony's system during Minecraft's absence is undoubtedly Terraria, despite the fact that it originally released much later than its crafty competitor on other platforms. If you've played Re-Logic's 2D creation, then you'll know what's in store for you here. Building your own shelters and homes, taking part in often comedic misadventures, and braving the depths of hazardous dungeons in order to grab rare materials is all part of the experience, although in many ways Minecraft's 3D approach better lends itself to the randomised world and sense of discovery.
You can essentially choose between two modes of play: survival, which sees you living a virtual life in a randomised world full of intrigue, and creative, where you're free to simply build things to your heart's content without having to worry about being chomped by beasties. Survival is where most players will no doubt be spending the majority of their time, but the option to get creative whenever you feel like it is welcome – especially when the process is just about as satisfying and as accessible as slapping together LEGO bricks.
Tapping or holding down R2 allows you to swing whatever you're currently holding in your right hand, be it a sword, pickaxe, or your fist. Initially, you'll have to make do with the latter as you wander around punching the ground or trees, coaxing the raw materials from them. With dirt or wood in hand, you can then start building shelter – or anything that you want to really. Construction is an easy process as you plop blocks next to or on top of one another, and seeing your creation slowly start to take form is heart-warmingly rewarding.
And you'll need that shelter when the sun sets, as monsters will begin to spawn across the map, hungry for your flesh. Crafting a bed allows you to skip ahead to the next morning, but seeing the night through inside of a hastily-built home is sometimes your only option if you've been caught out in the field as the darkness creeps in. Hearing zombies shuffle and moan just outside of your walls can create some surprisingly tense situations, and watching creatures circle your encampment, eager to gain access, is both creepy and satisfying as they eventually return to the shadows unsuccessful.
As you may have guessed, the game's crafting system is at the crux of almost everything that you do, whether it's making simple tools, forging better equipment, or even cooking up something to eat. There can be a lot to wrap your head around at first, but the title does its best to provide you with helpful hints and small tutorials as you try your hand at various mechanics. Once you've got the basics covered, it's generally quite difficult to stop yourself from transforming just about every material that you gather into something useful, but you'll need to keep a close eye on your inventory space, as without a dedicated chest to hold your valuables nearby, you'll be forced to micromanage your bits and pieces.
Thankfully, actually moving your gear around isn't quite as clunky as it is in Terraria due to a slightly smaller inventory screen with easily-recognisable icons. Still, it can be a bit more of a fuss than it needs to be, particularly when you're in a hurry. Fortunately, cycling through your favourite items is both easy and quick, with just a few taps of R1 or L1 immediately transporting your chosen trinket into your character's hand.
And when it comes to protecting yourself, you'll be glad that it's so responsive. Combat is as basic as it gets, but its simplistic nature gels well with the rest of the game. With or without a weapon, hitting R2 while pointing your cursor at a foe will give it a smack, which unsurprisingly hurts more if you're carrying a sword made of diamond. Victory is usually a case of swiping then backing off repeatedly, but you'll need to pay close attention to your surroundings to make sure that you're not forced into a corner, or worse still, another opponent. The enemy variety on offer isn't too vast, but from the iconic creeper to the mysterious enderman, each adversary is recognisable and charmingly designed.
With such a dynamic world filled with deadly enemies, farm animals ripe for the slaughter, and varied environments, it's no surprise that you'll have a lot of crazy and humorous stories to tell once you've spent enough time with the release – and that's really the title's biggest draw. Fondly reminiscing about the time that you chased a pig into a labyrinth-like dungeon, or that time when you got swept away by a waterfall which burst forth from a freshly-mined cliff face makes you realise how diverse and unpredictable the content on offer is.
Despite everything, though, Minecraft simply won't be to everyone's taste. You don't necessarily need to spend huge amounts of time in order to have fun, but you'll still need to put in a lengthy shift if you're eager to see everything that the release offers. There's a chance that you'll even find the whole thing to be terribly boring – it all depends on whether you're actually patient enough to build up the necessary resources that you'll need during your adventure.
In that regard, proceedings can become a little bit tedious as you scour the land for that one illusive item which your shiny new piece of equipment requires, but thankfully, there are ways to alleviate the monotony of it all. For starters, the release supports custom soundtracks, so you can play any music saved to your hard drive as you explore the wilderness. You can also opt to play with friends, which is arguably one of the best experiences you can have in Minecraft's weird little world. Journeying over snow-capped mountains, hacking your way through tropical rainforests, and digging into the lava-filled earth with a trusty band of buddies makes for some surprisingly memorable and suitably epic escapades. You can even make a world specifically for you and your companions – but disappointingly, your current equipment and character won't carry over between different games, which means that you'll always be starting an entirely clean slate whenever you first spawn into a new world.
Minecraft's arrival on the PS3 is exactly what you may have expected, as this is still the same addictive, quirky, and humorous title that's been available on the PC for years. It's easy to see why it's proved such a commercial juggernaut on other platforms, but that still doesn't mean that its graphical style and steady gameplay will appeal to everyone. If you can dig your way beyond the occasional bouts of boredom, however, be prepared to dig very deep indeed.