613679_largerThere's no doubt that Mojang's Minecraft has become a nearly unfathomable success over the past few years, and as with anything that becomes popular there's a seemingly unending line of people that rush to ride the coattails of that success.

Not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with taking heavy inspiration from a game. I mean heck, even Minecraft was inspired by similar games that came before it. But in the mobile space especially, 99% of anything that gets released that's reminiscent of Minecraft is just a crappy knock-off and cash-in attempt that's of little value to anyone. "Minecraft" is the new "Angry" or "Temple" in terms of latest SEO hotness, I guess you could say.

I can tell you from personal experience working at TouchArcade that with dozens of these kinds of games coming out every week it gets very hard to decide which ones are worth exploring and which ones should just be written off as the cheap clones that they are. It gets very easy to dismiss these games when so many bad ones are churned out at such an incredible pace.

With that said, a new Minecraft-y game has been ripping up the charts lately and even jockeying for position with Mojang's official Minecraft - Pocket Edition [$6.99]. That game is called Survivalcraft [$3.99], and despite being made by just a single person it bests even Mojang's official mobile offering and even does some unique things to set itself apart from the pack. And, despite our initial hesitations, this is anything but a cheap knock-off attempting to cash in on the Minecraft craze, and is in fact the best mobile sandbox game of its kind that you can get at this time.

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So what exactly is it about Survivalcraft that puts it ahead of Minecraft - PE? Well first and foremost is scope. Survivalcraft is an absolutely massive world, and for the life of me I cannot find its boundaries. That's because it doesn't have any. I'm not sure if it's just a huge world that circles around or if it just keeps on randomly generating terrain as you go ad infinitum, but as anybody who has played Minecraft - PE knows all too well there's nothing more disappointing than hitting the invisible walls of its tiny world. In Survivalcraft this just plain isn't an issue. It's astounding for a mobile device.

Exploring a giant open world is one of the biggest attractions of  Minecraft, but that also includes exploring dark, foreboding caves. There's nothing quite like coming across a tiny nook in the side of a mountain, seeing that it's actually an entrance to a cave, and then finding out just how far down the rabbit hole goes. It's exhilirating. Unfortunately, Minecraft - PE doesn't have caves at all, though it sounds like they are planning on adding them at some point in the future. However, Survivalcraft has caves right now, and they're just as satisfying as if you're playing the full-blown desktop version of Minecraft. It gives you that same exhilaration but on the small screen.

Another big part of the Minecraft experience is modding and customization. With the ability to create and use custom texture packs you can pretty much skin the world of Minecraft however you like. Survivalcraft supports this functionality, but Minecraft - PE does not. In fact, the most popular texture pack for Survivalcraft is the one with proper Minecraft textures. Go figure.

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You can also upload entire worlds online in Survivalcraft to be shared with anybody. The closest Minecraft - PE comes to that currently is a local multiplayer mode, though Mojang is working on official online functionality and there's at least one 3rd-party solution that works for that. Survivalcraft doesn't support any sort of multiplayer at this point, but being able to download other peoples worlds and texture packs is a really nice feature that makes it feel more social and connected to the fan community.

One thing that Survivalcraft does that might seem insignificant but I think is actually pretty important is add an overarching context to the game. In Minecraft, you just spawn in a big world for no real reason. You're just kind of there and then off you go. Survivalcraft starts off with a ship abandoning your player in a new world, and they make sure to let you know they aren't coming back. So, just as its name implies, your job in Survivalcraft is to survive and create a new life in this new world. Minecraft is about survival too, but there's nothing that ever alludes to that. You just sort of figure it out.

Honing in on the survival aspect is the direction Survivalcraft has taken and will continue to take to further differentiate itself from Minecraft proper. If you peruse the developer's blog or YouTube channel you'll see that stamina, an increased emphasis on food, and much smarter creature AI will make it more challenging just to stay alive in your new wilderness home. The following video is just a sample of the consequences of not getting enough sleep in the game, which will be part of the next major version update, and it also gives you a glimpse at what Survivalcraft is like in motion.

Oh, and you might notice something else if you check out that blog. The developer of Survivalcraft is just one person. How can one man make a better mobile Minecraft than Mojang themselves, who seemingly have unlimited money and resources? I have no idea, but it's impressive. Also, Survivalcraft orginally launched on Windows Phone back in 2011, and Android in October of 2012 before finally popping up on iOS late last month. So it has had the benefit of being tweaked, changed and updated for well over a year before coming to iOS, meaning the version we ended up with felt quite polished and complete right from the gate.

Depending on how you feel about cloning might go a long way towards how much you enjoy Survivalcraft too. Personally, the whole Minecraft revolution reminds me a lot of when Doom came out in the early '90s. For the next several years, every first-person shooter was referred to as a Doom-alike. I feel like a block-based sandbox game is just its own genre by now. Doom wasn't the first FPS and Minecraft wasn't the first block-building sandbox game, but both titles were landmarks in carving out a new kind of genre.

I could go on and on about Survivalcraft, like its extensive collection of block types and variety of creatures that inhabit the world, both of which trump Minecraft - PE soundly. But the bottom line is that if you're looking for the best mobile Minecraft experience, you're going to want to pick up Survivalcraft. Players in our forums have been hooked since its release, and even though I've dumped a considerable amount of time into the game myself I still only feel I've just scratched the surface of what's possible here.

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Mojang will hopefully get to a point where Minecraft - Pocket Edition is the robust experience everyone hopes it will be, but as of right now Survivalcraft blows it out of the water in just about every way, and even compares favorably to the full-blown desktop version of Minecraft.

To me, Minecraft is all about having adventures. Sharing amazing stories of just barely escaping a predator, accidentally burning down your house, discovering just the most expansive and detailed cave that you wind up blowing an entire afternoon exploring without even realizing. The possibilities are endless, and you know that every time you fire up Minecraft you're going to have an adventure and a new tale to share with others.

Right now, Minecraft - Pocket Edition is just a pretty block-building game. It's getting better, and I'm really rooting for it to, but it doesn't give me any sense of adventure. Survivalcraft does, and it does it in impressive fashion for a mobile device. For that reason and the reasons listed above, it's the mobile Minecraft that I'm sticking with.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Ben Norvell

    Agreed

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  • arr4ws

    Spot on! Good article

  • rdw2552

    Let's go mojang. U need to get on with it and show survivalcraft up

    But any ways survivalcraft is pretty cool I think it should go free for a day and I would get it but I don't want to pay four bucks when minecraft pe is getting a huge updates in a bit of time. But overall both games r good but I'm sticking with mcpe.

    • Nightmoore

      Right, because that dude that is spending huge amounts of time making this doesn't deserve four bucks. *sigh*

    • _Jc_

      A ... whole ... $4 ... ?

    • Devoid21

      Huge update? Beta multiplayer, redesign menus and buckets. Five months for that. Well if you really needed buckets, I suppose you could consider the update "huge".

  • Smartbomb

    This is GOTY for me. Hands down the best thing I've played on my iPad.

    Nice review guys :)

  • lewsheff

    The graphics are a bit off compared to mobile minecraft

    • Parkingtigers

      Son, you crazy. Check out those sunsets, those weather effects, those beautiful skies. Draw distance is better, and for basic blocks you have texture packs to flavour it to your liking.

      • MidianGTX

        The slapdash mishmash of styles really puts me off. Minecraft stays true to the design it spearheaded and looks far more beautiful for it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/brandon.blokzijl Brandon Blokzijl

        And a Minecraft texture pack is offered, so.. problems solved :3?

      • MidianGTX

        I'm not only talking about textures though.

      • lewsheff

        And the jagged lines? suppose you like them too?

      • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

        I suppose you expect FSAA on current mobile devices? I'll take features over looks at this point, I'm sure he will polish the looks in due time.

      • lewsheff

        Each to their own also

      • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

        If you're whining about graphics in a Minecraft clone, you have no business playing it at all...you just don't get it.

      • https://m.facebook.com/nintendouniverse.bros?__tn__=*s Tristendo

        Minecraft PE is better. Forget rip off clones. The graphics are jarring-no texture pack can fix that.

    • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

      I don't know how you can tell with all the fog in MCPE.

      • lewsheff

        I understand where your coming from bro, But personally I prefer presentation and a smooth experience

      • shadowdarken

        I'm preety sure you can take the fog off in MCPE

      • Man Goose

        They had an update, but SC is still better.

  • Smokey956

    The thing I hate about survivalcraft is the controls, need to be more like minecraft and also needs multiplayer.

    • http://twitter.com/drelbs drelbs

      I'm not a huge fan of the move pad - it's a little too small. A lot of the time I end up looking down when I want to move backwards in a hurry. (And I really don't like the alternate control...)

      But one thing I love here and hate about MCPE is that when you put an item in a slot it stays there! Call it OCD or whatever, but I want a pick in the first slot, etc. NOT have the new item appear at the front and scoot all the others down.

      IMHO, MCPE has come a long way, and overall it's great - but it's mind-boggling to me that the world size has not increased at all since release. It just feels so cramped, even for creative.

      • https://m.facebook.com/nintendouniverse.bros?__tn__=*s Tristendo

        The new update 9.0 is adding infinite worlds, caves, etc.

  • oldgamer dude

    Welcome to the party guys :) I have to disagree about the graphics , I think they smoke mcpe . Especially with the right texture pack also you get great weather effects like rain lightning and snow . The developer is amazing also , just look at the update log 0:

    • lewsheff

      I understand feature wise survival is better but the lines are jagged and the texture I have experienced is too

      • lewsheff

        I know it's only a small thing but the clouds don't really match the block like aesthetics of the game as they're slightly realistic. Future Minecraft updates need to be bigger and better in my opinion, the features added need to be massive in order to lead

      • ElectromagneticMelaniePulse

        What are you running it on? On my iTouch 5th gen everything is detailed and crystal clear, no obvious aliasing or other problems - other than the intentional low fidelity inherent to the Minecraft art style

  • http://twitter.com/Ju5stin Justin

    The same game you said was just "a copy of Minecraft" not inspired by, and that you "shouldn't download it" Lol.

    • Nick

      They admit to their early dismissal and apologized for it.

  • GameExp3rt

    The only reason is because survivalcraft has more experience.Wat don't believe...so survivalcraft wasn't first on ios than minecraft, it's birth was from android, few months before MCPE, and its original ideas was somewhat like minecraft(Any way MC got a point from starting of wood)So they did something like that.
    Ur friendly SC Map creator (soon with quests on my first map) XOXO

    • Loading3

      It's birth was from windows phone.

  • Nick

    Thank you for posting this and admitting the initial misconception.

  • Th3R3n3gad3

    Finally, a review of this awesome game!

  • Ryan

    The reviews for this game on the App store are full of Minecraft fanboys in denial haha, it's hilarious

  • D-Vader

    The only problem with this game is the controls. I don't really like them and they don't feel very natural.

    • Parkingtigers

      There is a split touch option in there, which is being improved in the next update to make it more like MCPE based on user feedback. I'm actually cool with the default controls, but I do recommend boosting the sensitivities to maximum.

  • Parkingtigers

    Good article, glad to see you guys came around on it. The game deserves the attention, it's the little clone that can.

    Yeah, Mojang do have almost literal unlimited resources. They recently had a party to celebrate 10 million sales on both PC and mobile, yet they still only have two part-time coders working on MCPE. They have made tens of millions of dollars from MCPE yet they won't even support it properly.

    SurvivalCraft deserves to steal their thunder as it shows what can be done when you actually give a damn. I still regret the $7 I paid for MCPE, just on the hope that one day it wouldn't suck. I've already long since got $4 of value out of SurvivalCraft though.

    Buy this game people, it owns.

    • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

      I bought MCPE when I had an Android, for 10 cents, during the 10 million apps downloaded sale or something like that, and I refuse to pay any more than that for it on iOS, it's not even worth the dime, really. I swear, Mojang are sitting up there in an ivory tower and not listening or caring that the community they created have outgrown their product, and want more than what they are willing to give.
      Look at the Xbox version, it's been out a year now, and it's finally at what I consider 'complete', and yet it still only generates 1000 sq block worlds.

      • Parkingtigers

        I really have utmost respect for 4J Studios doing that port though. They are working within the confines of 7 year old hardware, rewriting Notch's notoriously messy code into a different programming language, have to set higher levels of competence due to the restrictions and limitations of title updates on the 360, AND they implemented a ton of features that the PC version didn't have. I mean, tutorials, tooltips, a fantastic crafting system and 8 player drop in drop out multiplayer. Also lots of little tweaks that they added, without ever needing to add them but which I am glad they did.

        MCPE may be a badly supported side project where Mojang take the money and run, but 4J are going above and beyond to try and make their version as good a it can be. Good people those guys, their work ethic and dedication and sense of professionalism is of the highest level.

      • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

        The point I was making is that Survialcraft shows that it is absolutely possible to recreate a non hobbled version of Minecraft on a handheld, and you would think that 4J should be able to do the same thing on Xbox. After all, the worlds are still only 1000 square, that would get pretty crowded with 8 people in them. Although, I do wish there was the option to limit world size in PC Minecraft to whatever size you wanted, that would come in handy for mapmakers.

      • heresandypandy

        It's impossible due to the xbox's hardwarm (RAM) and save-file limitations.

      • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

        Rrrriiiiiiiiiiggghhhttt....and cars will never go over 25 mph, and man will never fly, or land on the moon...

      • https://m.facebook.com/nintendouniverse.bros?__tn__=*s Tristendo

        Dude-Minecraft Pocket Edition is worth the price of the PC version!! The upcoming update is adding infinite worlds, caves, wolves, mobs, Endermen, etc. The fact they ported it at all is amazing!! Survival Craft wouldn't exist without Pocket Edition. Also, they ARE listening to their fans. They are working really hard on updates.

      • Jay G

        In case you hadn't noticed, this article is from A YEAR AGO!
        Obviously things have changed since then, although it's been a year and things that should have been in from the beginning are just now about to release.

        And don't use "dude" to start your point, it's insulting and rude unless you're speaking to your friends. I am most definitely not your "dude".

      • https://m.facebook.com/nintendouniverse.bros?__tn__=*s Tristendo

        First of all, out of all the things I could've said to you on the internet, you got offended by "dude." Second, at least where I'm from, the USA is a free country. The internet gives you the liberty to speak your liking. And just because you wrote that a year ago doesn't justify that your opinion was like that then. I was referring to a year ago as well.

      • Jay G

        I should have known better than to respond to you when I saw your avatar of Mario carrying an Apple symbol...add in Minecraft and you have the trifecta of fanboyism.
        My opinion is my opinion also, dude. Just because yours is different doesn't make it more valid than mine.
        And stop with the "I'm a 'Murican" BS, you just make the rest of us look bad.

      • https://m.facebook.com/nintendouniverse.bros?__tn__=*s Tristendo

        Haha I apologize!! Sorry for the commotion. I was just playing around. I just use shameful come backs I see other people use on the internet on you. I could care less what your opinion is! I just play what I love playing. You seem like a really cool guy! Now, whether or not I'm a fanboy is debatable, but it is a stereotyped title, at the least.

  • dawizerd

    HORSIES!!

  • nightc1

    I gotta say, on ios this is the big daddy of block building survival games. It doesn't have multiplayer of minecraft or the ice slides of Eden World Builder but it has rideable horses and camels, a real survival mode with caves to explore, electrical devices to build (I made a drawbridge that operates at the push of a button, a lighthouse with a grid of lights that make a pattern so it looks like the light is rotating around, lights that are triggered like dusk to dawn lights so they come on at night)....

    The game has just a massive amount of possibilities and has a dev that seems to do nothing but work on updates.

    More than worth the $4 I spent. This is one game that doesn't have to have free sales and whatnot. It sells itself as the charts will attest.

    I'm a huge MC fan, but I don't have time often to sit at my PC and game since I have a wife and kids. This is the next best thing.

  • grits

    Great article.

  • Benjamin Rodriguez

    lol that's good, I guess I don't have to put off buying minecraft any longer. Taking forever with their updates and all, I'll just pick this up instead and be done with it!

    • https://m.facebook.com/nintendouniverse.bros?__tn__=*s Tristendo

      Minecraft Pocket Edition is worth the wait for the updates.

  • https://twitter.com/SirPrimeau Matt Prime

    Great article to read, helped me decide which mobile sandbox game to get on my new Samsung device

  • MaverickX12

    Damn it, TA...now I can't ignore this anymore. I HATE the boundaries in Minecraft and lack of caves so it's why I barely play it.

    • https://m.facebook.com/nintendouniverse.bros?__tn__=*s Tristendo

      The upcoming update 9.0 will offer Caves and infinite worlds.

  • Arnaud_B

    At last, THE game as Mojang should have done it. This is way better than MCPE. even the control with the options are better.

  • Protoman

    Glad to see it only took one dev to show how full of crap Mojang is about MCPE. I've been into minecraft since almost the beginning and can honestly say that the more money they've made the more they're acting like big dev houses in regards to fan consideration. The absolute snail's pace they've implemented with MCPE is reminiscent of when MC hit beta and was plagued with java virtual memory bugs and they didn't bother trying to fix it six months into beta... I used to have a lot of respect for Mojang but they're just another Rovio trying to become the next EA.

    • wojovox

      I play MC on Xbox.

      Minecraft holding the #1 spot in the appstore says more of the population buying games than the game itself. MCPEA is entirely too simple and dumb down from what Minecraft actually is. I want MCPE to be great and it can, but it does feel like they're not giving it the car and dedication they're giving the Xbox and PC versions.

    • https://m.facebook.com/nintendouniverse.bros?__tn__=*s Tristendo

      Mojang is another Rovio? Yeah right. I don't think you understand how hard it takes with two people to develop this while they are all busy with other consoles to code on and make. Pocket Edition is the best! Screw rip offs!

  • xStatiCa

    Not really into minecraft but I can't resist it anymore. Bought.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/badison Badison

    Neat! Thanks for the detailed write up. I'm going to check it out right now.

  • VirtualBoyFreak

    Bought it some hours ago. Haven't played much, but it looks fantastic. Thanks TA for opening my eyes to it :)

  • dwx882

    I actually enjoy it more than MC:PE. There's a better sense of "make every action count". I had a large house, tons of resources, then I went out exploring on my horse with a compass to find my way back, it turned dark so I went to sleep in a makeshift shelter, the next day I was attacked by a pack of wolves - killed me and the horse, I respawned in the makeshift shelter with no items and no clue how to get back to my home so I've had to start over in a new spot. Unforgiving, yet undeniably fun & challenging!

  • http://www.yepiclip.com/ yepi

    Wow, very nice. I love this.

  • Smokey956

    This game is so cool but it needs an update cause there are some bugs and fix the controls

  • Seed1010

    Come on Mojang!!! Make some new updates like caves and skins and texture packs or something!

  • Holcman

    Quit rushing Mojang! Minecraft just updated recently, and a whole slew of new things were added. Also, there were many bugfixes. Creating things such as texturepacks, mods, caves, skins, etc. take time, and don't forget about the whole process of getting it through Apple's system. The next update is adding skins I believe, and it'll make the online multiplayer a lot better. Also, Mojang has announced that caves will be added soon. I respect this company for making this game, because it's not like this type of genre has been copyrighted for Minecraft only, but for now, I'm sticking to the original. I'm not going to spend my $2.99 just to save maybe a month's time to the next MCPE update.

    • Salsander

      The thing that really grabs me about survival craft however is the world is limitless just like Pocket Edition; and there has been no confirmations that PE will additionaly have limitless worlds. Also keep in mind that this developer is constantly making updates, maybe even more so than Minecraft PE, so by the time PE is up to speed with what survival craft offers now, Survival Craft will still have some feature to surpass Minecraft.

    • Salsand3r

      Survival Craft had to go through Apple's process additionally and it has a whole "slew" of updates itself. Survival craft is updating fast enough that by the time Minecraft comes around to making caves, Survivalcraft may damn well be the equivalent of Minecraft On PC

      • https://m.facebook.com/nintendouniverse.bros?__tn__=*s Tristendo

        Not true-caves and infinite worlds are coming in about 5 days.

    • https://m.facebook.com/nintendouniverse.bros?__tn__=*s Tristendo

      Finally!! Someone who understands!! The original is always best and Mojang deserves more respect and understanding than this.

  • roguewave3

    This game is amazing the best minecraft alternative. It shows that minecraft can be great on a mobile platform. they just need to focus on us mobile gamers too one guy did this! They shouldn't be losing to him but they are! Survivalcraft has almost everything you want in minecraft.

  • ninthtale

    What I don't understand:

    See, this is comparing MCPE and SurvivalCraft. When it comes to quality and such, that's perfectly fair. I would get SurvivalCraft over MCPE hands-down just because of the playability and prettiness.

    What I don't get is how this is in fact an almost absolute copy of the *actual* PC/Mac Minecraft, except this guy apparently is working on including by default all the updates and stuff that MC can only have via mods (which is wonderful), and they're saying it's "anything but a cheap knock-off attempting to cash in on the Minecraft craze." I mean, the graphics are pretty much exactly the same. The name is a cheap ripoff. The opening screen is virtually identical.

    This looks to me to be pretty much like a full-version Minecraft for Android and iOS. If this should be compared to anything, it should be to the original MC. Which I feel like would be like comparing Costa Vida and Cafe Rio. The only notable difference seems to be Vida's public-access horchata fountain.

    Again, MCPE I'm sure sucks, especially compared to its PC predecessor. I'd never buy it because I have the full PC version. For mobile (if I cared to) I'd get Survival, but can anyone tell me how this is better than the original Minecraft, and if it is, can anyone explain how this is not a knock-off of said original Minecraft?

    • LOLCAT

      It's not better than the original MC, and it IS a knock-off. Undeniably. If there was a full-blown version of MC for mobile, it would be unforgivable. But as-is, it's the closest thing we can get to the iconic sandbox game on out phone, and it's pretty darn close. If you just play minecraft, there's no reason to get this additionally. If you're considering getting Minecraft and can't decide between SC or MC, get this. It's WAYY cheaper, and if you can tolerate the lack of multiplayer, it's absolutely excellent for what it is.

  • anabolicMike

    I bought minecraft pe first before anything else. It was fun to build but running into invisible walls was annoying so I decided to try the PC version. Awesome, the caves were a delight! I had fun adding mods and playing. Personally though I don't like playing games on the PC I like playing them on my tablet so when I saw survivalcraft I bought it. It's amazing. The author of this article is correct. PE was a waste of 7 bucks for me. Survivalcraft captures almost everything I liked about minecraft pe. I enjoy the electricity better then the red stone as well. I love using the AND gates and etc. now the new version came out. It's pretty damned sweet. Even more survivalist. It seems to be going a different direction then minecraft but I like it! If PE gets infinite worlds and caves I may load it back up but for now. NOT EVER GONNA HAPPEN! Id kill or ten or twenty more biomes on it survivalcraft tho lol

  • Press2Play

    The reason why mojang haven't update mcpe because they are busy playing survivalcraft.

  • http://www.seriouslyspain.com/ Seriously Spain

    Just bought both Minecraft PE and Survivalcraft this weekend. Already BORED RIGID with Minecraft as there's hardly anything to do and the worlds are so small.

    Survivalcraft, on the other hand, is amazing. I'm about 10 hours in and can't stop playing it. Minecraft PE? Unless it's drastically improved, it's a waste of time.

    And yes, I agree with everything you say :)

Survivalcraft Reviewed by Jared Nelson on . Rating: 5