Review: Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition

Minecraft is absolutely everywhere. You can play it on PC, smartphones, Xbox One, and a ton of other systems. With that said, Minecraft addicts have faced a problem for years now. Barring using laptops (or less fully-featured Pocket Edition), it is difficult to get ones’ Minecraft fix on the go.  Sometimes all you want to do is chop trees on the train or while in the bathroom. Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition finally brings the complete gameplay experience to a portable device, but not without some compromises.

If you’re interested in Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition then you’re probably already a proud player of the title on other platforms. As such, the basic mechanics that made Minecraft famous will only get a small introduction in this review. This is a game about mining, crafting and creating. Players are first thrust into the wilderness and expected to learn the game’s mechanics in order to survive. For many, living through their first night in a ramshackle shelter is what first hooked them. On one side of the spectrum are players who use Creative mode to freely design incredible objects and systems in the world, while others prefer dangerous Survival mode.

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The PlayStation Vita Edition includes a tutorial mode similar to the one introduced first with Xbox 360. This serves as an excellent first step for anyone who has yet to experience Minecraft’s magic. After learning basic resource acquisition, crafting, and survival skills players are unleashed into a full world to explore. They can either continue off tutorial world or generate a new playfield instead. As with other version of the game, you can specify a seed and then go from there. Of course, these worlds do not achieve parity with PC ones.

Minecraft may not look like a technological tour de force, but the massive scope of worlds is impressive. PC players may have felt like they never ended — because, to a layman’s eye, they never did. Vita reveals its technical limitations quickly. Without attempting to find the edge of the world, I ran into it shortly after starting. This is more evident in Creative mode when you scope out the perfect building location and realize that hitting ocean is the end of the line in all directions. Sure, what you’re given is still large enough to play with for a good long while but heavy explorers may be displeased.

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One thing to note is that worlds can be transferred to and from Vita. If you have the PS3 version (which should be the case, considering it gives free access to Minecraft on Vita) then you can send a world back and forth between them. Vita worlds can also be sent to PS4 but there are restrictions imposed. Once you’ve sent a world to PS4 it is no longer viable for transfer back to Vita. You can still play the original world on Vita but there won’t be a way to “sync” your updates between both copies afterward.

Another issue PC (and even console players) likely never ran into rears its head on Vita — choppiness. Every once in a while, such as in very congested areas, the game will chug for a few frames before getting back up to speed. Moments like this remind you just how demanding Minecraft really must be. Although you’re likely to run into a few slow spots while playing they’re not something that destroys the experience. Beyond these two topics, there’s little else to differentiate versions, although Vita hosts only four players via multiplayer.

While one would think the Vita version comes with a host of touch screen-specific feature, strangely, touch is barely utilized in its control scheme. You can touch hotbar items to quickly swap between them. Another feature is quickly tabbing through Creative mode’s object library. Managing your own inventory, however, has to be done the old fashioned way. Finally, the control scheme comes in right and left-handed setups.

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Closing Comments:

Minecraft is one of the most-loved games in the past decade. As it travels to new platforms it makes concessions as it goes, never quite reaching the excellence of the PC original. Still, there’s tons of fun to be had with Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition. For one, players can finally experience a “full” version no matter where they choose to play. A few technical limitations show that Vita may still not be the ideal platform to play on — but for now it is by far the best handheld option available.

4outof5Version Reviewed: PS Vita