Minecraft – Pocket Edition by Mojang icon

Minecraft – Pocket Edition ($6.99) by Mojang is the official Minecraft game for your iPhone and iPad. However, this first iteration leaves a lot to be desired.

For those that have been living under a rock, Minecraft is a game where you let your creativity flow by mining, crafting, and building whatever you can think of, while fending off monsters. It first went into development around May 10, 2009, and has built up a very large fan base in a short amount of time. Many have been waiting for an iOS version of the game, only to be sated with unofficial Minecraft clones.

But now the wait is over, because Mojang has finally released the iOS version of Minecraft to the public, following the recent Android Marketplace release. However, this mobile version of Minecraft feels nothing like the original PC title.

Minecraft – Pocket Edition by Mojang screenshot

First things first – several elements of the game that make people love Minecraft (mining, crafting, and fighting enemies) are nowhere to be seen in the Pocket Edition. For those that are fans of the game, this is highly disappointing. Even for people that have not played the PC version, but wanted to start with this mobile version, this is also a letdown.

Basically, with Minecraft: Pocket Edition, all you’re getting is the building aspect. Yep, that’s right – you don’t even get to mine the blocks you’re going to be building with, since they’re provided to you (in an unlimited quantity) right from the get-go. There’s no challenge in collecting blocks, and the worst part is that they don’t even provide all of the blocks that are in the PC title (you won’t be able to build a perfect rendition of Nyan Cat in this mobile version).

The controls of the game are decent enough. There is a digital on-screen D-Pad on the bottom left of the screen that will allow you to move forward, backwards, right, and left. The button in the center of the D-Pad makes your character jump. To move the camera around and observe your surroundings, you just swipe your finger on the right side of the screen. You can also have the game through first or third person point of view, accessible through the game menu.

To place your blocks and build, select the block you want out of the block bar on the bottom. Then just tap the spot where you want to place the block. Of course, with touch controls, the precision of placing blocks won’t be as good as actually using a mouse on the computer. I found that sometimes I would end up placing a block one square off, which is incredibly frustrating. Luckily, you can actually remove blocks by tapping and holding on them. Not the most intuitive way, but it will have to do.

Unlike the PC version, you are limited to only three different blocks (or flowers, torches, etc) at a time. To change the three displayed blocks, tap on the “…” button to bring up all 36 blocks in Pocket Edition. Selecting a block will place it in the first slot, and push the other two back.

I found the limitation to three blocks at a time to be a unsatisfactory, because there is still some available space on screen for more allotments. There could have been at least three more slots, which would bring it closer to the PC version. Perhaps it would make it a bit more cramped, but it would be more convenient than having to constantly switch blocks.

Despite all these shortcomings, I found the graphics of the game to be extremely well done. It definitely looks like Minecraft, and the animations when moving around are extremely fluid. There is an option to turn on “fancy graphics” in the game options (great on an iPhone 4S!), or even have lower graphics quality (if you’re on an older device).

Other game options include setting your username for multiplayer (local WiFi only), control sensitivity, inverted Y-axis, and even lefty controls.

I did have this glitch with the options though, where after I close it out once, and attempt to go back into it to change something, the menu doesn’t open again. Not sure if this is just on my device or just a bug, but I hope it’s fixed soon (as well as all the other shortcomings of the game).

Minecraft – Pocket Edition by Mojang screenshot

Overall, I found this first version of Minecraft: Pocket Edition to be highly disappointing. It feels like a rushed version of the product, since it is missing the most crucial elements of the game.

At the current price of $6.99, it feels like a huge ripoff, and I would advise to stay away from it until it actually feels closer to the actual game, and also include online servers.

In the time being (this appears to be an alpha release), if you really want a Minecraft-like experience, I’d recommend Junk Jack. It may not be the official Minecraft, but at least you can mine, craft, and fight enemies.