It is absolutely impossible to talk about Minecraft in today’s gaming landscape as if it’s a new game. It’s been commercially available since 2011 and it’s been ported to nearly every possible platform available. It would be redundant, then, to talk about this as if it was a new release and I’m just not going to do that. Instead I’m going to talk about the things that are specific to this version of the game, and hopefully by the end of this review you’ll understand why I think this is the best possible console version of the game to date.
I’ve played Minecraft on numerous different platforms. As of now I currently own the PC, Windows 10, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Vita, Wii U, and Switch versions of the game. I’ve played on mobile, but not for any length of time as I don’t like controlling the game without buttons and/or sticks. I’ve put countless hours into building things alone or with my children and have worlds saved on every console I own the game on. You want to play Minecraft, and as long as I can access the online servers for that console I can play Minecraft.
The world size is somewhere between previous generation versions of the game that are available on Wii U, Xbox 360, and PS3. Those world sizes were around 864 x 864 blocks in size. Pretty small, especially when compared to the PC versions of the game where your world sizes could, in theory, be infinite. The entire game world would fit on one map the player could hold. On the PS4 and Xbox One the map sizes are roughly 5,120 x 5,120 blocks in size. It would take roughly 25 fully plotted maps to show the whole world. The Switch version clocks in between those at around 3,072 x 3,072 blocks in size. They’re not the biggest maps available, but they’ll give you plenty of space to explore and create. This is the same whether you’re playing the game docked or undocked.
The game can be played docked to the TV or undocked in portable mode and functions nearly identically in both cases. The only difference is the draw distance in handheld mode isn’t quite as long as when it’s docked to your TV, 7 worlds chunks vs 10 world chunks when docked. It means that you’re not going to be able to see as far if you’re up on a mountain looking to survey the land, but in most instances you’re never going to notice it as you’ll be focused on what you’re building or exploring down in caves where you can’t see very far anyway. The frame rate seems to hold steady regardless of how you’re playing the game as well meaning you won’t really see any performance dips if you’re sitting on a bus or waiting on a plane.
This is not the first time that there has been a Minecraft version that could be played on both console and portable systems in a somewhat persistent manner. The PS Vita and PS3 versions of the game could have saves uploaded and transferred between systems, but the method, when compared to Switch is somewhat clunky. It took a few minutes to upload a world, go to the other system you wanted to play on and download it to be able to play. With the dual nature of the Switch that transition happens seamlessly so you can be playing in handheld mode one minute and then instantly switch over to the TV version of the game and experience no lag in play. That alone makes this a better version than any currently available in my opinion and is something I think we’ll see being talked about over the course of the Switch’s lifetime.
The game on Switch as it’s currently available is equivalent to the console versions that were available in January of 2017. There have been some additions made to most console platforms since then, but as of now there are some features, like the Glide mini-game, that are not available on the Switch. The developers have promised that there will be an update to this version of the game soon to bring it up to par with the other console versions and from that point it will be identical to those as they come out.
The price might make a few people balk at first. It’s $29.99 out of the game, but comes with a few bits of DLC already packed in. Like the Wii U version of the game it includes the Mario themed mash-up pack and Adventure map to explore. It also includes a few other bits; the both Battle & Beasts skin packs, the Natural, City, and Fantasy texture packs and the Festive Mash-up pack. There are other DLC bits that are available for purchase as well if you really want to expand the way the game can look and there will, no doubt, be more available in the future. While we’re on the topic, could we please get Metroid and Zelda themed worlds and textures to play around with? I’d really like that.
Multiplayer play is as easy as it’s ever been. My only real complaint about it is that we still don’t have any sort of persistent worlds to play around in. All online play is peer to peer so one person has to be the host while everyone else joins in. You can set your games to be online games so anyone on your friends list can join you at any point that you’re playing. Once the host quits, though, everyone is kicked out of the world. There is also no voice chat in game so you’ll have to use outside programs if you want to talk to people while playing. If you’re playing locally you can have up to four people on the same system, even if the game is in handheld mode. You cannot use a single joy-con to play, but that makes sense as the game really requires all of the inputs of a full controller to be able to control fully.
Minecraft has been played by millions of people around the world on more than a dozen systems. However, I think, with the Switch version of the game we’re getting the best version that’s available on consoles. Many people will tell you that the PC version is the best to play and for many reasons they may be right. However, I much prefer to play the game on consoles and I think the Switch version is the one to get if you’re looking to play game wherever you are.
Review copy of the game provided by Nintendo.
Played both online and offline.
Total Play Time: 9 hours