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Minecraft Classic Review – It’s Off To Work We Go

Sometimes, we
wonder how people ten years ago used to live. Back in 2009, there were only two
Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and only one of them was really worth
watching. We didn’t have ride-share taxi services to make travel more
convenient, and we couldn’t trace our family trees with commercially available
DNA testing kits. Crowdsourcing had only just taken off thanks to Indiegogo,
and the iPad was a glint in Steve Jobs’ steely eye. Perhaps most terrifyingly,
Instagram didn’t launch until 2010. We don’t know how we lived without these
things which we now consider to be essentials.

Also in 2009,
another young upstart was getting its first shot at fame. TIGSource, a forum
exclusively devoted to independent game development, was about to receive
gaming history in the form of the first uploaded version of Notch’s sandbox
creative game Minecraft. Fast forward ten years and, of course, Minecraft has
almost completely taken over the globe with its lovable blocky graphics and
incredible range of creative possibilities. To celebrate the game’s tenth
anniversary, Mojang and Microsoft have made it possible to play Minecraft
Classic online
right from your browser.

Between 2009 and
2011, when Minecraft would see its first release, Notch (real name Markus
Persson) added a number of features to the game which we now consider standard.
These features included extra items, extra blocks, a survival mode, and changes
to the game’s physics and general feel. Minecraft Classic doesn’t have any of
these things. In many ways, it’s got a similar mission to Blizzard’s upcoming
World of Warcraft Classic; it’s intended to show people just how far Minecraft
has come in the intervening ten years since its original release.

It does
accomplish this, but it does something else besides: it shows us that Minecraft
has always been fun, and that stripping away many of the game’s constituent
elements does almost nothing to diminish the sense of enjoyment we derive from
it. Minecraft Classic is fun in the same way as being placed in a literal
sandbox would be. This is a game that gives us the opportunity to focus on our
imagination, to strip away all the ancillary things that distract us from pure
creativity. Many creatives feel better working under limitations, and Minecraft
Classic is the perfect evocation of that.

Since the
boundaries are limitless, you can pretty much create whatever you like in
Minecraft Classic. You’re given 32 blocks to play with, each of which is a
different color. Of course, since they’re all voxel-style blocks, they’re all
the same shape and size, so there won’t be any slopes or curves here. Still,
that won’t stop you from building ancient geometric space monoliths or massive,
overextended mansions on shaky cave-complex foundations. You can build whatever
you want, and you can call it whatever you want too.

Of course, if
you don’t have friends around to see your achievements and assist you in
creating them, then you won’t be able to show off your creations. That’s why
Minecraft Classic comes complete with a multiplayer function which allows
friends to join your game. Simply generate a link from the game’s rather sparse
main menu and send it to your friends. If they paste the link into their
browser, they’ll be able to join your game. There’s a chat function and not
very much else; this is probably a multiplayer game best enjoyed with people in
the same room as you.

Even if you do
decide to fly solo, there’s plenty of fun to be had here, but you’ll need to be
willing to make up your own games to a certain extent. Exploring cave complexes
and hollowing them out to make a den for your future supervillain career is
still extremely enjoyable in Minecraft Classic, just as it is in the regular
version. Gazing out over the azure oceans and wondering what other blocky
people are creating blocky worlds of their own making has a special kind of
nostalgic twang to it that’s hard to replicate in the more populated modern
Minecraft.

Minecraft
Classic is, to put it simply, as fun as you want it to be. If you don’t get any
joy from building worlds and stepping back, looking at them from a distance and
revelling in your achievement, then this isn’t the game for you. There
certainly isn’t a story, although there’s ample opportunity to make one up for
yourself. The multiplayer is basic at best, and it’s not possible to populate
your world with thinking, feeling NPCs like it is in the Minecraft of today.
What you’ve got here is a blank slate, several slightly cumbersome paintbrushes,
and the instruction to do as you please.

For some, that
won’t be enough. We’d recommend those people check out Minecraft Classic
anyway, though, because this is the birthplace of an undeniable gem. Minecraft
Classic may not enthral like the new version does, but it’s still a
surprisingly absorbing and compelling time sink. There’s more to do here than
you might think, and the skeleton of Minecraft is very much visible even as
“crucial” features are missing. Plus, it’s free. What more could you want?
Don’t raise your expectations too high and you’ll love Minecraft Classic for
what it is: a fun, diverting, and addictive museum piece.

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