Never before have I played a game quite like Minecraft.
In my first couple hours of play, I was struggling to find my purpose or objective; I would start up Survival mode, begin crafting shelter and items, and endlessly run into monsters which would bring about my demise. It wasn’t until I came to the realization that Minecraft—in both physicality and story—is player-created that my mind opened up to the possibilities.
From the get, Minecraft gives you a bevy of play styles to choose from. Between mini games and Survival mode, all the way through Creation mode, there’s bound to be something for each kind of player. I started with the tutorial and, in retrospect, I wish I had started with Creation mode to give myself chance to become familiar with the game’s mechanics in a less restrictive environment.
To me, the tutorial throws way too much information at the player at once, and newcomers to the game, like myself, may feel a tad overwhelmed with all the options and crafting possibilities. The tutorial helped me make sense of which menus correlated with which functions, but giving the player the rundown of all items on one crafting screen can feel rather daunting at first glance.
Information overload aside, once I reasonably understood how to craft different items and mine materials, I felt ready enough to jump into the game proper. What does that mean, exactly? As I mentioned before, that’s up to the player. You could play some mini games with friends, survive through the night in Survival, or just build some cool stuff in Creative mode.
For me, Creative mode is where the game shined the brightest—not because I’m a particularly creative person when it comes to building things, but because of the total and unbounded freedom afforded by Creative mode. Not only do you have an inventory full of each type of material, decoration, weapon, or piece of armor, but you can literally fly through your randomly generated world and find different places to explore.
In one world I created, for instance, I found an underground cave where a few bats and zombies lived. As I delved deeper into the cave, I found an abandoned mine cart and some broken railway. All I could think was: how did this get down here? As a writer, my mind flourished with potential backstories for this locale, and it’s moments like this where I found myself enjoying Minecraft the most.
In Survival mode, you have fewer luxuries afforded to you; you start out with nothing in your inventory and must mine for your materials before you can build anything. In the few Survival mode games I created, my first priority was to build a shelter before nightfall, lest zombies or other creatures venture to destroy me. That means first creating tools, which then speeds up the mining process. Once you have plenty of stone mined (or whatever material you wish your shelter to comprise of), you build what, in my case, might be considered a veritable stone shack, just enough to get through the night unscathed. From there, you can move on to other locations or continue building up your shelter—or, really, whatever else you want to do. Food and health also play a role in Survival mode, and with all these components together, it makes for a more formulaic Minecraft experience.
Unfortunately, I was unable to play the Switch version of Minecraft with any other players, but I imagine Survival mode is best enjoyed with a small group, whereby you can fortify your shelter and work together to hunt for food and slay monsters.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the veritable crown jewel of the Nintendo Switch Edition of Minecraft, and that would be the Super Mario Mash-Up Pack. What we have is a beautiful recreation of characters and landmarks from a variety of our favorite plumber’s adventures, particularly in some of the 8-bit art. Walking through the lovingly recreated Peach’s Castle from Super Mario 64 is a sight to behold. It almost felt like destroying a work of art to build or deconstruct anything in that world, so I simply flew around the map, just taking in the painstaking recreation of some of gaming’s best characters. The music added a nice touch, too.
In terms of playing on the Switch hardware, Minecraft works as equally well in handheld mode as it does in docked or TV mode (though the resolution is locked at 720p in both modes). I will say, though, it is nice to have Minecraft in such a portable format (like Pocket Edition) but still retain all the features of the full console version. All control schemes worked reasonably well, but I certainly prefer the Pro Controller when docked—although playing in handheld mode or using the Joy-Con grip gets the job done well enough. Noticeably lacking is support for single Joy-Con play, which means you’ll have to have another set of Joy-Cons or a Pro Controller to play splitscreen co-op. Lack of native voice chat hurts the online multiplayer experience as well, though that seems to be a common theme across multiplayer Switch games these days.
Whether you want to play solo or with friends, survive through the night, or roam free to explore or create, Minecraft has a little something for everyone. Different texture packs and world customization options ensure you’ll never experience the game the same way twice, and in a game where the story and action is up to the player, that’s about as much as we can hope for. While Minecraft might feel overwhelming to series newcomers, it still feels accessible whether or not you take the time to learn the intricacies that come with certain game modes. Lack of native voice chat and the inability to play locally with two single Joy-Cons somewhat mars the multiplayer experience, but it doesn’t wholly detract from the otherwise polished presentation.
Disclaimer: A review code for Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition was provided by the game’s publisher.