When you think of an Xbox Live Arcade game that lets you construct pickaxes, mine gold ore to be melted into bars, and traverse a wide open world both above and below ground you may be thinking of Minecraft, but now there's a new kid on the block. Conceived by 505 Games and originally released on PC before Minecraft, a port of Terraria released on the Xbox Live Arcade in an attempt to put a dent into the crown of the infamous time drainer. Priced at a whopping 1,200 MS points Terraria is one of the more expensive games on the Xbox Live Arcade, but the big question is though, is it worth it? Given that Terraria released before Minecraft, one would venture to guess that it is already poised for mining domination, but is it? Well to find out we grabbed our pickaxes and torches and set off into the depths to see what lurks down below.
Right from the beginning you will see that the biggest difference between both games is that Terraria is 2D compared to 3D and that everything around you will harken you back to the days of old 16 bit enjoyment. While there are other differences between the two, this is without a doubt the biggest. Given that this game is set to go toe to toe with Minecraft, let us show you some more similarities. For starters the whole menu system looks and feels almost like a direct copy of what you come to expect from Minecraft. Boxes and tabs indicate what you can build, smelt, etc. provided you have enough resources. This means that for those familiar to the menu and crafting system of Minecraft will find a slight learning curve, but you almost wonder how close to a legal battle Terraria actually is, given the sheer amount of similarities.
The plot behind Terraria is not only glacially slow, but pretty much nonexistent and consists of one main rule, explore and mine everything you can see both above and below ground throughout the world. To accomplish this you are given a straightforward control scheme that unfortunately doesn't seem to blend well with the controller and gameplay. The reasoning behind this is due to the fact that there are two different ways to mine. You can go full out ahead but your accuracy in choosing what blocks to mine will suffer greatly forcing you to make many repairs along the way. Then there is the more precise "mouse mode" which allows you to use your Right Stick to direct a cursor around your character to choose what particular block you want to mine. The latter method is far more exacting, but also far more time consuming. Deciding on what method you would like to use is as simple as clicking the RS, however, when you take into account Terraria's seemingly endless supply of evil baddies, you will find yourself clicking your Right Stick like crazy as you can easily forget that you're in precision mode and your cursor is pointing away from the enemies. Even though the control scheme works, in some aspects you get the sense that a little more refinement would have gone a long way into improving the overall gameplay experience. If you have a massive world to uncover, discover, and mine, your game must have a very fluid and user friendly control scheme and sadly you won't find that here.
To say that Terraria has a massive world is a huge understatement. Taking note of the width of the map you will find that it is a lengthy trek across, but what is more surprising than the width, is the depth of the world itself. Above ground the world is abundant with trees, mountains, various plants and more but what is more surprising is what resides below ground. Veins of different types of ores pulsate through the layers of dirt and stone, but what makes up Terraria's subterranean jewel are the different boss fights and regions below which even include the depths of Hell. On the surface, this seems to be all well and good, but there is a slight issue with this and that is that the pacing of the game itself makes you feel less inspired to spend the countless hours and days of mining stone and mud to get to one boss, then get killed and respawn what seems as an eternity away just to make the long walk back to battle. This goes to show that even though you may have content available, you have to make gamers actually want to devote their time to getting there, and otherwise, what’s the point?
All of these block breaking, enemy destroying, and land traversing experiences come blanketed in a very nostalgic 16 bit glory. Colorful sprites can be seen in every facet of Terraria and when you start taking into account the actual character creation process, dungeons, and boss areas, you can really get a feel for the 2D world of Terraria. If the graphical nostalgia wasn't enough to bring a smile to your face, the generic blippy soundtrack that courses through the game will. Think of this in terms of classic SNES soundtracks and you will pretty much hit the nail on the head.
So now the big question, is Terraria worth 1,200 MS points? Without hesitation, yes. Sure there may be issues that plague critical points and aspects of this game, but the addictive value in beating the ever loving crap out of the world in 16 bit glory will take a very long time to get old. Terraria may not make you say Mine who? or Craft what? However the overwhelming amount of content provided will gladly drain countless hours out of your life, and let's face it; if a game is doing that, then that must mean it's enjoyable and that is what is needed to create a very good game.
Suggestions: A little refinement with the controller interface and a bit faster pace with the gameplay.