At first glance, the world of Terraria on Xbox Live Arcade may look like a game stripped from the 16-bit sprite days of the Super Nintendo, but once you dive into this deceptively simple little game, you'll find an experience that plays a lot like Minecraft, but with more goodies to create and wield.
Terraria can be most easily described as Minecraft but in 2D, as the game is all about endless exploration and slow advancement by way of mining and gathering resources to create new tools, build a home, and so on. There are quite a few more baddies to slay as you play Terraria, and the world takes a lot more getting used to, but these differences don't make the game any less fun.
From crafting benches to armor sets, Terraria contains most of the elements you'd expect from a sandbox crafting game, especially if you come into the experience as a Minecraft pro. However, Terraria contains many goodies that Minecraft doesn't, including guns and other destructive weapons, a mana system, the ability to permanently increase your maximum health, and even interactive, talking NPCs. On that same token, the game is more complicated as a result, and the game's tutorial, while lengthy, still doesn't explain the game as well as it should.
The best way to experience Terraria is to jump in with a seasoned gamer who has experienced the game either in its original PC version or in this Xbox 360 port. The game's co-op abilities are simply awesome, as items earned and gathered are tied to the player character, rather than the world. That is, if you jump into a game with a friend and they give you a gift like an advanced sword or a bundle of wood, you'll be able to take those items back into your own world and use them how you see fit.
As an Xbox 360 experience, the menu system is a bit unwieldy at first, as some crafting recipes are hidden in areas that may not initially make sense, and the entire game comes with a huge learning curve, similar to how Minecraft's recipe system might seem daunting to the uninitiated. Crafting in Terraria is done by simply tapping on a button when you've gathered the right materials, and the d-pad can be used to quick-select up to four of your most used items. It's a setup that works great, but only after you've taken enough time to really become acquainted with it.
As an overall experience, Terraria's charm and retro graphics may be what pull you in, but it's the freedom of the experience and "random luck" of finding a great bit of ore or a great tool while mining that will keep you coming back for more. It seems impossible to stop after creating just one room, as you'll quickly build towers high into the sky, filled with NPCs that can offer healing services, demolition items and more. There's always the draw to see what's around the corner, and go into just one more cave, and before you know it, just as many day and night cycles have passed in the real world as in the actual game.
If you're interested in a scripted, linear experience, Terraria doesn't offer any of that, but if endless exploration and the thought of "what if" strike your fancy, this is another game that you simply must play. Terraria is available to download for 1,200 Microsoft Points, or $15 USD on Xbox Live Arcade, and you can find out more about the game right here.
Have you tried Terraria on Xbox Live Arcade? How do you think this PC gaming experience has ported over to the home console? Sound off in the comments!