‘Terraria’ Review – What’s Down That Hole?

In 2009, the exceptionally small team at Re-Logic, headed up by Andrew “Redigit” Spinks, released “Terraria,” a two dimensional, side-scrolling, exploration-driven title, that gave players virtually limitless ability to explore the game’s world. Since then, the game has sold millions (with an “s”) of copies on PC, and now 505 Games have helped bring this wildly successful release to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Retaining all of the core experiences of the PC release, the console versions received additional content, as well as a handful of other upgrades. It’s not uncommon for games that are originally developed for PCs to have difficulty making the transition to a different platform, but, aside from a few quirks, “Terraria” seems to be right at home on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.

Exploration has been a cornerstone of video gaming since “Adventure” was released on the Atari 2600. Gamers have been venturing to unknown lands on virtually every console that has ever been released, and doing so in a huge variety of different ways. When “Terraria” was originally released it gave players an unprecedented amount of freedom to make the game’s world their own. They could dig wherever they wanted to, they could build whatever they wanted to, and they could do – or not do – whatever they wanted to. It’s no wonder that it was a huge success, and the PC release currently holds an 83 Metacritic rating. In short, it’s already pretty clear just how solid of a concept “Terraria” is, so we are going to mostly look at the changes in the console version, and how smoothly this game transitioned over to the new platforms. But first, a brief overview of the game, in case this your first exposure to it: Build, create, battle, and explore in your own huge world, using the tools and weapons you find and craft, in the hopes of putting an end to The Corruption, an inexplicable evil that is quickly taking over your land. That’s actually more of a description than you’ll find within the game.

Now, on to the important stuff; the console ports, retain all of the original gameplay, making it essentially the same game, however, there is some new stuff injected into this release that make it more expansive than its PC counter part. There are more weapons and items to find and craft, more pets to tame, and more enemies to hunt and eviscerate. The only catch is that players won’t be able to enjoy the majority of the additional content until deep into the game. The updated armor and new boss aren’t introduced until well into the game, and with a game like “Terraria” that can mean many, many hours. That being said, most people that enjoy “Terraria” are in it for the long haul, and will be rewarded with an additional layer of satisfaction for their endurance with some pretty solid new content.

One new feature that is (optionally) included at the very beginning of the game is a tutorial. Accessible only as an option from the start menu, this new guide will help anyone that is new to “Terraria” get acquainted with some of the game’s early nuances and necessities. It’s short, informative, and yet still very vague (like pretty much everything else in the game), but it will explain the basics of getting some living quarters up and running, which is essential to surviving your first night. The irony of the tutorial is that the game itself is seemingly intentionally vague, encouraging players to either figure things out on their own, or search out assistance from other players. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those options, any game can be a horrible experience if you don’t even know where to start, and that’s where the tutorial comes in. This particular tutorial could have been tuned a little better to help players understand the basics, but overall, it’s a welcome addition to what is otherwise an overall vexing game.

Whenever a game jumps from PCs to consoles there is always one specific thing that’s generally the most scrutinized adjustment – the controls. For the port of “Terraria,” it’s clear that 505 Games thought that putting a good amount of time and effort into fine-tuning the controls would be a good idea, and it was, but it could have incubated for a little longer. The in-game controls are pretty straightforward and relatively easy to pick up, with most of the important actions on the trigger buttons (in fact, the improvements to the fine and gross targeting are a great addition to the game), but the menu system is what quickly becomes a constant hassle. It only takes a few minutes to figure out that “Terraria” was originally designed for a mouse-based interface, since using a controller to jump around within the game’s menus, to change weapons, craft, or even just loot a chest, can be confusing and a source of frustration – especially when the monsters keep attacking you. Players will need to adapt to some clumsy controls quickly, but, fortunately, they don’t usually directly affect the gameplay. There’s nothing more frustrating than dying on a menu screen.

Overall, the console port of “Terraria” is faithful to the original, and just as addictive, and now you can even play it with your friends in the same room via local split screen multiplayer. Millions already knew that it was a good game, but bringing it over to console should hopefully expose it to a whole new audience of non-PC gamers. As long as they can work past the slight control issues, this release is a great way to experience a different crafting game on consoles, should that other crafting game not interest you. Just be careful when playing “Terraria,” (no matter what platform you choose) or else you might end up sinking days into exploring what’s down the game’s holes. The game really should come with some kind of a warning label.

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