In the world of gaming, four years is a long time. In the specific corner of the hobby that is mobile gaming, four years might as well be twenty. It's long enough to turn the greatest of apps into digital dust, to add 1200 levels to Candy Crush Saga [Free], to see a new iPhone model launch and be discontinued, and certainly long enough for a diligent developer to turn around a disappointing launch release. Minecraft - Pocket Edition [$6.99] was a shell of its proper self when it debuted on the App Store back in November 2011, something we made note of in our original review. And while I don't want people to get in the habit of expecting a new review for every game that gets a significant update or two, Minecraft - Pocket Edition has come so far that almost nothing in our original review applies to the game anymore. With the release of a significant new version of the game, now is as good a time as any to revisit it.

I'm not going to waste many words talking about what Minecraft is and where it came from. There are entire bookshelves dedicated to that. It's digital LEGO in an open world with gentle RPG and action elements, and it's probably the most significant game released in the last 25 or so years. When it initially released on mobile in late 2011, the only other platforms it existed on were the various home computers. It's now available on pretty much any gaming hardware that doesn't have a Nintendo logo on it. Given the relatively weak tech the Pocket Edition was developed in mind for, it's no surprise that it was missing things from the original version. There were a lot of missing features that didn't seem quite so connected to the under-powered hardware, though, lending the game the feel of an early access alpha. Well, Minecraft basically invented that, so all's fair, I suppose.

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In 2015, however, the technology inside mobile devices has come a long way, and with four years behind them, Mojang has had a lot more time to work on fleshing out the game. Where we once had a game with a small world, no monsters, no night, no mines, and no crafting, we now have an infinitely expanding world, a robust cast of creatures, sunsets and starry nights, plenty of underground caves to go spelunking in, and a healthy, if not complete, crafting system. There are still a few crucial pieces missing that make the game feel more limited than the PC version, particularly the ability to use redstone for electrical devices and freely switch between creative and survival modes in-game, but we're nearly at the point of only having nits to pick. The original Minecraft - Pocket Edition had virtually none of the things that make Minecraft so special, and as a result, it felt nothing like the game beyond the thinnest of surface layers. The current version might not have everything, but it certainly hits all the notes a port of Minecraft should.

Exactly what those notes are is up to the individual player. That's always been the strength of Minecraft. If you just want to chill out and build a life-sized replica of the local Taco Bell, you can do that. If you like the mystery and thrill of exploring deep caves with limited resources, go for it. Maybe you'd like to power up your character, forge strong equipment, and face off against monsters? Or perhaps you'd like to travel the world, living off the land and building little shelters as you go. You could create a farm, a giant dream mansion, a massive tower, your own monster-filled dungeon, or the world's largest wang. There are limitations in Minecraft, and a few more in the mobile version than in the computer versions, but the main boundaries for most players are going to be set by their own imagination.

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The way the game rolls out, it's also pretty hard to put down. As long as you've got ideas, you've probably got some small thing you could do to progress on another project. And hey, if it's not too big of a project, why not finish it right now? You'll probably need more materials, though, so you'll have to head down to a cave first and see what you can find. Look, you found more than you expected, and now you have some extra crafting materials. What can you do with this? Well, you could probably build another small thing, right? Hm, but you're missing a certain type of wood. And so it goes, until your battery dies or your stomach informs you that you yourself are about to.

Of course, it's not the only game that offers this kind of experience on iOS, and it might not even be the best for your dollar. But it is the original, and it's still in active development. Looking back at the last four years of progress, knowing it's going to keep on going, I'm pretty excited for this game's future. That wouldn't be enough to recommend the game if it weren't already extremely enjoyable and full of fun things to do, but I think it's pretty safe to say at this point that even if Minecraft - Pocket Edition is still being eclipsed in some categories by particular other titles, it can at least hold its own and provide an embarrassing amount of fun.

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My only gripe with the latest version is with the new control layout. You can use an MFi controller if you have one, and that's great, but the redesigned touch controls are improved in some situations and a lot worse in others. If you're playing in creative mode, flying is a lot more troublesome than it used to be, for example. I hope Mojang adds the ability to choose between the new and classic controls in a future update, but we'll have to see. Oh, and I'd still like to hear the PC version's music in the Pocket Edition someday. But now we're picking nits again, aren't we?

The bottom line is this: Minecraft - Pocket Edition might not be 100% of the way there yet, but it's close enough to make it a solid recommendation for anyone looking to play Minecraft on the go. There are other great crafting games on iOS that have seen a lot of developer support such as Junk Jack X [$4.99], Survivalcraft [$3.99], and Terraria [$4.99], but you really can't go wrong by adding Minecraft to your library. Way to go, Mojang. Now, about that redstone?

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Dailon Huskey

    This new version is so awesome! I had stopped playing it cuz it got boring but now it's good to go and with some more work it will be the same as PC

  • Quazonk

    Nice. I bought this at launch and it's been sitting unplayed in my backlog for the longest time due to lack of features. I think it's finally time.

  • riChchestMat

    The MFI controller support is barely useable though. You can't easily move and turn at the same time. Did you test this for yourself Shaun?

    • ZEROFACES

      I've had the same problem with my MAD CATZ C.T.R.L.i It's pretty much unplayable =(

    • khann

      I'm sure they already know about it and will hopefully patch it in the update in a few weeks.

      • Draven2222

        No they don't

  • pokah

    It's close to being one of the most significant game in past 25 years.

    I'm not sure if Mario64 fits within that timeline .. But that game had a much greater impact on me. First true 3D platform game and was done so well. I remember my friend imported a Japanese n64 and that game and we beat the entire game and we couldn't read Japanese. That was such an amazing experience - I've never been that drawn to Minecraft but can definitely see the appeal

    • Quazonk

      Mario 64 came out with the release of the N64 in June 1996, 19 years ago. Makes me feel old. Like, real old.

      • Taeles

        what separates us from our parents though is that 19years later we are actually embracing the latest tech and playing the latest games and toys heh πŸ™‚

      • Corey Wolfe

        I am your parents age, and I am still embracing it! Watch out, you will be your parents age at some point as well..

      • YourAverageDude

        I am all your parents ages. I have no use for petty squabbles over mobile or console games, because I like to cook.

      • Corey Wolfe

        Um, maybe the wrong forum for you then.. Masterchef is ----> that way...

    • curtneedsaride

      I think there are older 3D platformers, but it was my first too!

  • Shkrbby

    "Mario"

    • ffaust

      Great game on the computer but I think it sucks on the iPhone and iPad. Controls just are not there for me in any shape or form.

  • vicsark

    Oddly I still haven't bought Minecraft on any device. Not because I wouldn't like it, I would love it. But because I'm afraid at how much time I would spend there. I already spent countless hours on Blockheads. But if I finally buy it, I'll go with the iOS version.

  • deadclown

    "And so it goes, until your battery dies or your stomach informs you that you yourself are about to." The suspense is killing me.

    TA editors don't even read through articles a second time before they're posted, FYI

  • rockwilder

    John Carmack has been working on pocket minecraft to get it working with virtual reality. I'd expect the game will get a lot of optimization updates and improvements rather quickly. Apparently, Carmack feels that it's the most important game for Virtual reality.

    • Nycteris

      That will be fantastic! But I anticipate vr format wars.

  • Homestuck_Trash

    I remember getting minecraft pe back when it was 0.2.1 and it brings a tear to my eye to see how the shell minecraft was on mobile has been beautifully changed. I remember the old days of 0.3.x, 0.4.x and so on. And there was always one seed I remember best... Nyan. It was the best seed you could use from what I remember... I got it in junior high and now that I'm coming close to my senior year I'm so happy that soon I'll be working on learning how to make games like this... I think I'll shut up now cause no one asked for my life story

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

      No! I love this post. xD

Minecraft: Pocket Edition Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 5