By Steve Peacock
Wow! For the better part of two weeks I’ve been saying I was going to get this review written. The funny thing about game reviews is how when the game is good, it is really difficult to put the game down long enough to write the review. With a game as old as Minecraft, I don’t feel like it needs much of an introduction. You can get that from a quick Google search. I’m here to talk to you about the Nintendo Switch version. I play primarily in Survival Mode, but I have dabbled in Creative as well. The Mini-Games from the other console versions are also present, but they are a tiny part of the overall package, and not something I have enjoyed on any console. That being said, here goes!
If you listen to Infendo Radio every Wednesday night on Youtube, or every Monday morning on podcast services all over the world (even in Singapore!), you have likely heard that I was very late to board the Minecraft train. My dream was to play it anywhere. On my TV at home through my PS3/PS4, or on the go on my PS Vita. For that dream, I waited until somewhere in the neighborhood of 2015 before I finally bought the game. I was never really a PC gamer, and I know I could have accomplished the same thing with a laptop. But I wanted a console experience. When it came to Sony’s trio of consoles, it worked okay, but there were some major hitches. But, I dealt with it. I truly enjoyed the experience. Fast forward to January or so of 2017, and Minecraft for Nintendo Switch was announced. It was my dream come true for what had become my favorite game of all time.
So, how does it perform? At the time of writing, it performs at 1080p, 60 frames per second. Silky smooth, just like it’s full home console brothers (looking at you, PS4). In handheld mode, it performs at 720p 60 frames per second (superior to it’s last generation little brother, Wii U). It supports up to 4 player local co-op, in either docked or undocked mode, with each one having either a pro controller or pair of joycons. It supports up to 8 players (ad-hoc) local Switch multiplayer (8 Switch consoles each with a copy of the game). And it supports up to 8 players online multiplayer. At the time of writing, there is no voice chat, either through the game (which the Wii U had) or through the Switch Online Mobile App. While this does make it difficult to coordinate your building attempts with your friends, 3rd party apps like Skype and Google Hangouts are what I have used for years, and are not a big deal to fire up from my phone or tablet.
The only two real drawbacks to this version of the game are the draw distances, and the size of the world. The world sizes are limited to Medium, Small, or Classic. The Medium is 3 in game maps wide, by 3 in game maps tall (roughly 6100 blocks in each direction). That is plenty of space to build an amazing world, but nothing compared to the PC or even the PS4 versions. As far as draw distances go, in handheld mode, you can see about as far as you could in the Wii U version. In docked mode, you can see farther than that, but not as far as in the PS4 version.
As far as DLC, it comes preloaded with the Super Mario Mash Up pack, just like the Wii U version did, as well as a few other DLC packs that came standard in the Xbox One and Wii U Edition. Almost all of the DLC that has been released (except Star Wars skin packs, which I hope come in December), and they seem to be pushing those updates every couple weeks. I personally foresee all the DLC coming out to this version by the fall when the Better Together Update comes out.
Like all version of Minecraft, there are some bugs and glitches. They are few and far between, but they are present. I have not encountered any that were game breaking, just irritating. One day after the latest update, I decided to test multiplayer with some listeners. One was from Texas, one was from Singapore. We had a very rough time getting connected. It took Lukas suggesting that we reboot (hold down the power button, restart console) our systems before we got it working flawlessly. One of the first days I had the game, only half the DLC I purchased was showing up in game. It took me putting the console in airplane mode and returning it to normal state to fix that issue. As I stated, nothing that breaks the game, just normal 2017 random issues.
Where Minecraft really shines is the multiplayer. I regularly play with Lukas (and I hope Mike will join too) and the most fun I have had was either playing the game online with him, or split screen with my wife. She and I have enjoyed the game together for years now, and I hope that continues now that we can take the Switch with us wherever we go. I also look forward to future Infendo game nights, either with the cast of Infendo Radio, or with the Infriendos across the world. I know the lot of us will have a good time, and learn from how each other plays.
So, given the limitations of the game on this console versus the amount of time I have already spent playing the game, I would have to give the game a 4 out of 5 for an overall rating. Barring some small, acceptable limitations for the hardware, this is the DEFINITIVE VERSION of the game, and likely the last one I will feel the need to buy. Unless, of course, the “New” Switch U is not backwards compatible and is also a “Portable Home Console”.
Lukas Termini: A Second Opinion
A few months ago, Steve said something along the lines of “Minecraft is such a hard game to rate because it’s so unique” and I thought JEEZ, this guy’s got it bad for this game huh? If only I knew… Usually, a useful but admittedly lazy technique for reviewing games is to compare it to other games in the genre or series. (Un)fortunately, Minecraft is a very unique beast. Now, having put my first meaningful 30 hours into the game, I’m going to attempt to review it from an outsider’s perspective. I won’t be reviewing the Switch version specifically, as I have nothing to compare it to.
I’m also gonna keep this short, so I don’t steal Steve’s thunder here. Consider this my mini-review.
Let’s start with the most important aspect: Gameplay. Minecraft is one of those games that’s only as fun as you want to make it. It’s very much the video game equivalent of a box of LEGOs (sorry, LEGO City Undercover). You’re given all the tools, and you’re expected to be creative. In that way, I can understand why it’s such a niche game among older gamers. Children seem to latch on to the game a lot easier, and that’s probably due to the fact that children are, in my humble opinion, more creative than adults. Minecraft is probably the ultimate “sandbox” game, doing what games like Scribblenauts have been attempting to do for years, only better.
I’ve always felt that games are first and foremost storytelling devices. Good games tell a story, whether they have a narrative or simply convey it through in-game events. Minecraft has none to speak of (excluding the Minecraft: Story Mode game which… isn’t really part of the main entry). That being said, it’s still a fine game, and if a game chooses to not have a story, I really can’t fault it for that. It does leave you feeling rather barren and alone though. Again, the “story” really comes from your unique experiences as you play the game. Luckily, the game offers enough to provide you with moments that allow you to have your own adventure, which somewhat rectifies the situation for me.
Minecraft clearly feels like the kind of game that has been building on itself for years. There are things that feel very simplistic, but there’s a complicated, logic-driven structure under the surface. Much like real life, the game forces you into a situation with no guidance, expecting you to learn mostly through trial and error (or online guides). Again, I can see how this could be endearing or infuriating, depending on the type of person you are. Even the soundtrack is so mellow and neutral as to make you forget it even exists.
In truth, this is a game that is so dependent on the person playing it, I find it almost impossible to rate objectively. I’m tempted to give it a 3.5 out of 5, just for the sake of providing a number-based score, but Minecraft is so subjective. If you’re able to set challenges for yourself, create goals and see an adventure in every moment, Mincraft could just as easily be a 5 star game. If you expect your game to provide you with the nitty-gritty and prefer to just hop from level to level, i can almost certainly say there’s no love to be found here.
But Minecraft is such a unique, genre-defining game that I can’t just give it a neutral score like 2.5. It’s created a number of cloned titles that all fail to be as enjoyable as the original, and it does provide a lot to do, if you’re willing to put in the work yourself. If you’re not completely fried creatively after a long day at work or school, pick it up on any of the thousand or so platforms it’s available on, and give it a go. It’s very much a unique experience, and I’m not sure if a person can know whether or not they’ll like it until they’ve given it an honest chance.