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Terraria Review (XBLA)

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Terraria Review (XBLA)
505 Games
Terraria is essentially a 2D side-scrolling Minecraft mixed with a Metroidvania. If that doesn't get your hardcore gamer blood pumping, I don't know what will. The game makes the transition from PC to Xbox Live Arcade fairly intact, though with some rough spots due to the control change from keyboard / mouse to a controller. It is still very playable, though, and very fun, and packs enough content to keep you busy for months.
Game Details

  • Publisher: 505 Games
  • Developer: Re-Logic
  • ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
  • Genre: 2D Adventure
  • Pros: Tons and tons of content; game worlds can be massive and new stuff constantly pops up; decent controls for digging and fighting
  • Cons: Early game can be boring and frustrating; building stuff sucks

The comparisons to Minecraft are very apt here. You dig up dirt and rocks and different types of ore or chop down trees into little uniform blocks of stuff that you can then use to build something new. The main difference is that it is all in a 2D side-scroller world instead of 3D. What sets Terraria apart is the Metroidvania (think Castlevania: SOTN or Shadow Complex) aspect of it where exploring the world will reward you with new materials and items and abilities that, in turn, make exploring easier or faster or let you fight enemies easier.

There is no real story or goal or reason for doing anything other than your own curiosity. Because of this, Terraria is very overwhelming when you first start playing because you won't really know what to do. A handy tutorial that shows you how to do basic stuff helps out, but it doesn't really give you a "why", just a "how". It is up to you to figure out what you want to do. The game worlds can be massive and stretch far below ground or high into the sky. There is tons of different terrain. Lots of animals and enemy types. Lots of block types. Tons of weapons and items and armor. You just have to set off to go find it.

Gameplay

505 Games
Because Terraria is 2D, the controls are pretty simple. You select items in your quick use slots with the bumper buttons, use those items with the R trigger, open your inventory and crafting menu with the Y button, and jump with A, among other controls. Jumping around the world and exploring and fighting enemies works just fine and crafting is as easy as selecting what you want to do from the menu. Digging is easy since you just hold the right trigger (and make sure you have the auto targeting option on by clicking the right analog stick) and your character will automatically dig a tunnel in whatever direction you're holding the stick.

The problem with the controls comes when you want to start actually building something yourself. Just like Minecraft, you can build pretty much anything and everything you can imagine in Terraria. Too bad it isn't all that fun on the console versions. On PC you just use your mouse and click where you want to place blocks. On XBLA you have to use the right analog stick to target where you want to place a block and then hit R trigger to place it. It never seems to work quite right, though. The targeting is really janky and trying to precisely place blocks is a huge pain in the butt.

Thankfully, building isn't really the main attraction in Terraria like it is in Minecraft, so even if the building is less than stellar, the rest of the game holds up really well. Exploring the world is absolutely fun and satisfying. Nighttime brings monster hordes (just like that other game ...) so you have to retreat back to the safety of your house or cave or whatever until daylight when you can venture out again. Every day of adventuring makes you that little bit more powerful with better weapons and equipment so you can explore a little further the next day. It takes a few in-game days and nights to really get into the rhythm of things, but once you do, Terraria is one of the most fun and addictive games you'll play. And the best part is that it is freaking huge. There is seriously a ton of content here.

Multiplayer

A great feature is that Terraria offers 2-4 player local splitscreen play or 2-8 player online play. Exploring and finding new stuff with your friends is awesome and very fun. And when you're all working together, even building stuff is more fun since it goes faster.

Graphics & Sound

The presentation isn't anything to write home about, but the simple 2D sprites are definitely charming. Despite the simple visuals, every block type is distinct and easy to instantly recognize, and the lighting is really well done. The sound is similarly simple, but just as charmingly effective.

Bottom Line

505 Games
In the end, Terraria is a great XBLA game that we highly recommend. It has a bit of a learning curve and takes a while to really hook you, but once you figure things out and decide what you want to do, it is insanely addictive. The "2D Minecraft" description does a good job of letting you know what to expect, but Terraria actually has a somewhat different focus than its distant 3D cousin where exploration is the draw here more so than building (at least on XBLA with the less than stellar building controls). Once you learn to start treating it like a Metroid or Castlevania instead of Minecraft, things start to snowball and you'll get hooked. For 1200 MSP ($15) you're getting a ton of content, but it is up to you to figure out what to do with that content to have fun.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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