Minecraft Pocket Edition Review: Build Blocky Masterpieces on the Go
At a Glance
You too can craft sandbox masterpieces on the bus ride to work, thanks to Mojang's Minecraft Pocket Edition for Android. Minecraft Pocket Edition is a smooth port of the PC game, with a few modifications to make it work on Android.
When you boot up Minecraft PE, it allows you to choose a game mode: Creative or Survival. In Creative mode, the goal of the game is to build, build, and build some more. You can fly around by double-tapping the jump button, and nothing impedes you from building to your heart's content. In Survival mode, you have a more defined objective, which is to stay alive by eating sheep and killing zombies, while, of course, building things. Survival mode also brings a day/night cycle similar to the one in the desktop version of Minecraft.
Gameplay in Minecraft PE is simple. In the lower-left corner, you get a virtual directional pad with arrow keys and a middle button for jumping. You'll rarely use the jump button (except to fly), because your character automatically jumps up to the next block. To look around (or change the direction you're facing), you can tap and drag anywhere on the screen.
At the bottom of the screen are three buttons that let you select building materials, as well as a button with an ellipsis on it. You tap the ellipsis button to access more building materials, including doors, ladders, and water.
Minecraft PE makes placing and destroying blocks easier than regular desktop Minecraft does. To place a block, simply choose the building material you want to use, and tap anywhere on the screen. To destroy a block, just tap it and hold your finger down; a circle will appear, and when that circle fills up, the block will explode.
In Creative mode, you have access to unlimited materials, so you don't have to worry about harvesting or mining. In Survival mode, you get survival tools (such as shovels and weapons), and you still have access to an unlimited supply of most materials. Some materials--such as mushrooms, flowers, and bamboo--require harvesting, however.
When Minecraft PE first came out, it featured only Creative mode--which, while fun, limited the game to block artists. With the addition of Survival mode, though, the game now caters to artists and traditional goal-oriented gamers alike.
The game's graphics render smoothly and look good (though there's not much to say about a retro-styled game that consists of blocks). The game world is a little small, and you'll find yourself reaching its borders fairly quickly. The title offers no real online multiplayer mode, but it does allow you to play with friends over a local Wi-Fi network. Options are pretty basic, though you can invert the Y-axis and switch the virtual d-pad over to the right side of the screen, if you desire.
Minecraft PE provides a nice balance between the classic desktop version of the game and optimization for a mobile platform. The general performance is excellent, the game doesn't drain a phone's battery too quickly, and the controls are accurate. If you've been looking for a way to play Minecraft while on the go, the Pocket Edition for Android is worth every penny.
We tested this app using a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0.2.