Note: These are early impressions based on our first few hours with Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition. We’ll be back with a full review as soon as we can.
Love Minecraft? Have a Nintendo Switch? Well, Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition seems pretty much unmissable. It might not have the 1080p/60 resolution of the PS4 and Xbox One versions or support for the largest world sizes, but it aces being the version that you can play at home and on the move.
What’s more, it’s the definitive mobile version, with better controls than the iOS and Android versions and a more complete Minecraft experience than was possible on PS Vita. Despite a disappointing 720p resolution it still looks great – in the Minecraft sense – on your telly, and runs with only a fairly minor reduction of draw distance on the undocked Switch. You’ll see trees and objects popping in a little bit, but not to any serious extent.
For the most part this is Minecraft as you already know and presumably love it; a game of creation, crafting and sometimes desperate survival in a square-edged world of chunky mine-able blocks. In terms of the basic gameplay, it’s not hugely different on Switch. To sweeten the deal – and it needs a little sweetening when you’re paying a steep £20 – Mojang has bundled in the Classic, City, Fantasy, Festive and Natural DLC packs, plus a handful of skins. Most importantly, you get the Super Mario Mash-Up Pack released originally with the Wii U version.
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That gives more creative Minecraft players a lot to get their teeth into, and I – and the Minecraft maniacs in my family – have already had a ball building Mario-esque houses and messing with Mario scenery. Of course, a lot of the content is just basic reskinning, with classic Mario enemies standing in for the usual Minecraft mobs, gold blocks replacing crafting tables and the fire flower taking over lighting duties from the traditional flint and steel. All the same, it’s hard not to be impressed by the attention to detail, from the Mario themes that grace the soundtrack to the Mario paintings you can mount on every wall.
And if you need a demonstration of what you can do with all these goodies, you don’t have to do more than spend an hour or two exploring the Switch Edition’s pre-built Super Mario World. It’s a bit of a Mario wonderland, full of cleverly-crafted Minecraft mechanisms to ape the behaviour of the usual pipes and springboards – not to mention gargantuan statues of all your favourite Mario stars. Platforms take you to different areas and secrets, while you’ll come across delights like two Toad houses linked by an underground mine-cart railway. There’s a good few hours of gameplay in just exploring it all.
Sure, there are some problems. Some of the Survival-mode gameplay – mining, crafting, finding sustenance and fighting – doesn’t blend seamlessly with the kind of easy-going exploration the Super Mario World encourages. Even getting going with the basic tools can be a challenge, and I suspect a lot of players will fiddle with options to make life easier. What’s more, there are a lot of platforming-style areas and puzzles to try out, and the kind of precision running and jumping required isn’t easy from a first-person perspective using Minecraft’s physics simulation and controls. You’ll need persistence as much as skill to see it all.
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It’s worth noting that while up to four players can play together on one Switch console, you’ll need extra controllers just to play split-screen with two; Minecraft’s controls demand a little more than a single left or right Joy-Con can provide. And while I’m moaning, the decision of one Switch user to start a Creator game in the Super Mario World has denied everyone the chance to earn achievements. Is it really not possible to spin up another instance of the world?
These are niggles, though, and this Minecraft remains as absorbing and addictive as, well, every other decent version out there. There’s still a lot to try in the Switch Edition and a lot of mining, building and surviving to do. I’ll report back with a full review once I’ve had more time with the game.
While other console Minecraft versions have it licked on resolution and maximum map size, the Nintendo Switch Edition is the only version to give you all the authentic Minecraft goodness wherever and whenever you want to play. I’m also impressed by the Mario content and the creative potential of all the bundled DLC. It’s still early days with the latest addition to the Minecraft family, but it looks like a winner for both Minecraft and Mario fans.