It’s Minecraft but not as you know it, thanks to the magic of AR
Version: 0.6.1 (Early Access)
Size: 193.3 MB
Seller: Mojang AB
Platform: iPhone & iPad (cellular required)
It was only a matter of time before Minecraft – the ultra-popular lo-fi sandboxing game – got a dose of the AR treatment and invaded our towns and cities. Minecraft Earth, which combines real-world gameplay with augmented reality (AR), is available in “early access” mode in a number of countries. But does the title, which follows the likes of Pokémon GO and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, deliver?
If you’ve played either the Pokémon or Potter AR games, you’ll have an idea of what to expect with Minecraft Earth. The format is strikingly similar. When you load Minecraft Earth up on your iPhone or iPad, you’ll quickly see your own familiar neighborhood rendered in Minecraft’s iconic voxel style. Dotted around the map are “tappables” – craft items that can be added to your inventory with a tap. The first thing you’ll want to do is start building up your inventory by traveling around your real-world town, tapping as you go.
Much like the regular version of Minecraft, a bigger inventory means better building. But in Minecraft Earth, Build Mode switches AR on and lets you construct something in the real world. Usefully, gamers can fast-track the building process using “Buildplates,” which are pre-constructed objects that you can add to using items from your inventory. A small number of these are free, with more available via the in-game store.
There’s no doubt that Build Mode is the game’s most charming feature. Seeing a Minecraft structure come to life through the AR lens of your iPhone or iPad is downright magical, and the augmented reality holds up really well. Players can choose items from their inventory and place them on their various structures, just as you would in the regular game, and you can collaborate on buildings with others, too.
Minecraft fans will be pleased to learn that you can craft and smelt using the dedicated Make Stuff interface. And a series of Adventures (represented by beacons) are dotted around the map, where players can take on challenges to earn rewards including booty and XP, which lets you level-up your character.
Once again, Adventures switch the game over to AR mode and you’ll need to start pointing your device in all directions. Unlike Pokémon GO, it’s not really possible to play Minecraft Earth without AR, so if you don’t have an ARKit-compatible device then you’re out of luck. You also need an Internet connection, which may rule out your iPad if it’s a Wi-Fi only model.
Finally, it’s worth noting that there’s a limit as to how much you can accomplish in the game at home, in your living room. Given that Minecraft is especially popular with the younger generation, parents may need to join the hunt for tappables to help their kids get the most out of Minecraft Earth.
Minecraft Earth is launching in international App Stores over the remainder of the year. It’s already available in the US and UK, and is a free download.