Own up – Which of you so called “friends” killed my pet rabbit?
It is a sad day when, after spending some time playing split screen Terraria on XBLA (also available on PSN) with friends and managing to mine out a multi-room, underground, base of operations, one of your friends callously hacks your pet rabbit to bits. I say pet rabbit, in reality the poor thing just wandered into one of the rooms and I shut the door. But still, we had bonded. So now, out of sheer revenge, I will dig a massive hole, trick my friends into it and wait for one of those worm things to finish them off. Bobtail shall be avenged!
It is very possible that I may have slightly lost the plot, but it is very easy to get sidetracked with petty vendettas and other distractions whilst playing the sandbox mining/crafting adventure Terraria, from Re-Logic and 505 Games, on Xbla and PSN. The very nature of this game and others like it (I’m looking at you MineCraft), is that you are free to do what you want, without being tied down by objectives and such. Sure, you have to build some kind of shelter before the sun goes down, and remove the doors if a blood moon rises. But otherwise explore, build, create, and wreak terrible vengeance on your friends. But let’s start at the beginning…
Terraria is a 2D side-scrolling game from the same genre as the hugely popular MineCraft. The player creates a character and then is dropped into a randomly generated world with nothing more than a pickaxe, axe and sword. A handy wandering guy will give the player some simple instructions that amount to a tutorial, but then they are on their own (at least to begin with) . The world is made up of blocks and hacking these apart with one of your tools will result in not only changing the environment, but also resources with which to build or create other things. Dirt blocks, for example, can be stacked to create a rudimentary shelter from the danger that lurks after the sun goes down.
But before long, the player will be wanting to create more elaborate buildings and equipment than a simple mud hut. Gather some wood and build a workbench to have access to things like torches and wooden platforms.Then build a forge and anvil to start making armour or stronger weapons. Of course, this will require more difficult to come by resources, such as copper or iron, and thus mining even deeper into the underworld will be required. As you go deeper, there is more chance of coming across treasures, more powerful slimes, and those damn worm things that appear out of nowhere and harass you until you die.
Fortunately, dying just means respawning at your starting point. Sure, you may lose some of your equipment (particularly annoying when it happens to be a demonic pickaxe), although some of it can be picked up if you happen to be playing with friends (which is very nice for the “friend” that took my demonic pickaxe). There is also the time factor. If you happen to be working towards some goal and you are a long way from the starting point (the worlds come in a choice of sizes, but even the smallest is absolutely massive), dying can lead to a lengthy trek back to whatever it is that you were doing. And I have to admit to getting lost in my myriad of tunnels more than once.
And dying can happen quite a lot, depending on how defensively you play. Slimes are the most common foe in the first few hours, coming in a variety of different colours which can be found both above and beneath ground, then there are Zombies that come out after dark (and develop the ability to open doors when there is a blood moon), flying demonic things that look like giant head lice, and those damn worms. There are plenty of other beasties to worry about, including some pretty epic bosses, but dealing with them will hopefully come much later in the game, once the player has made some decent weapons and armour, and a whole bunch of potions.
It is this quest for better weapons, armour and items that pushes the player onwards, allowing them to explore further, fight better and find yet more resources and equipment. Although there may not be any objectives as such, the simple goal of being better or finding everything that can be found is what will make many gamers sink hours and hours into Terraria.
The controls are the thing that will worry most players, especially those who play the PC version of the game. Fortunately, thanks in part to the 2D side-scrolling nature of the game, most of the controls are intuitive and work well. You use whatever item you have selected by pressing the right trigger, be it a sword or a block of stone, you move around and jump as you would expect. Access to the menu is straight forward and the buffer buttons can switch between items in the first slots of your inventory, allowing for some quick, menu-free changes.
The one area where things get a little fiddly is precision. By clicking the right stick, the on-screen cursor becomes independently controllable. This is handy for precise placement of blocks, or mining and such. However, when the cursor is in this mode, using the interact button to open doors, for example, doesn’t really work. Imagine running away from a bunch of Zombies and getting stuck trying to open a door because you forgot to press the right stick again after some precision building. It can be a bit frustrating.
Perhaps the best thing to come from this console version of Terraria, and maybe the worst, is the split-screen local multiplayer. Sitting down with friends and exploring or building or fighting is an absolute joy and feels very natural. However, it should be noted that splitting the screen into four results in some very small play screens for the players involved, depending on the size of your TV, and binoculars may be required. Online multiplayer for up to eight players is also available, ensuring that you never really have to be alone in the game.
Other new additions to the game over the PC version include all manner of additional equipment, new monsters, pets and a world map. The map is actually quite revolutionary and really makes you wonder how PC Terraria players have managed without it.
Visually, the game has a retro look about it which works well with the block-based gameplay. The audio also fits in well, with the occasional moans that can be heard whilst digging around in the dark doing a good job of inciting panic.
Terraria will not be for everyone – some gamers need to be pointed in the right direction. But for anyone who can embrace the freedom of this open world, or who want to shape a 2D game world to their own design, or who want to fight monsters and reap the rewards just because they can, Terraria can easily consume many, many hours of their life and is well worth the asking price.