The first time you see Terraria, you’ll think Super Nintendo’s Mario meets Minecraft meets Zelda. That’s what it feels like to first delve into the world, and while that’s a bunch of a great games to take from, Terraria doesn’t quite add up to all of them. With that said, this Xbox LIVE Arcade title is one of the better ones available.
Each level in Terraria begins as a randomly generated world. In all its 16-bit glory, you really get a sense that something is amiss here, but venture off to destroy the world with your axe and sword anyway. Monsters come along, and your first instinct is to fight them off with any number of weapons you pick up throughout the game.
Controls in the rest of the game are excellent, however, Your jump height is fixed but defined by the type of material you’re standing in and what you’re trying to reach. The game rarely devolves into sessions of jumping and axe-swinging just to get to a ledge, though it does happen occasionally.
Swinging at enemies is remarkably satisfying for what you might expect to be a bit too fluid and silly gameplay. Combat is deeper than you might expect from a game that looks like this; looks aren’t everything, it’s true.
Speaking of looks, however, Terraria is gorgeous. There is nothing here that doesn’t make you think “retro-chic” but that’s all a good thing. Think about the best games you played as a child (assuming you were a child of the 80s or thereabouts) and you’ll be flung right back into the glory days of amazing SNES titles, rife with colour and vibrancy and pixels. And that really is the best way to describe the visuals.
Audio is right on par with those games of years past, too. Bleeps and bloops are a familiar throwback to games of the early-nineties but brought into modern age with a clean crisp sound not marred by the buzzing of yesteryear’s speakers and audio chips. Of course, it doesn’t hurt the game that a lot of the audio is more comical than anything, with the sound of decapitating small farm animals (accidentally, of course) taking precedence over everything else.
You will notice a few tropes to fall into here and there, such as the usual collecting minerals like gold and silver to build up new weapons and materials. Luckily, because the world is almost entirely destructible, it’s not as big an issue as it could be. There are points where you just get unlucky with the way the world randomly spawns and the closest ore you’ll find is a five minute jaunt away.
You can also craft your own weapons, albeit with a frustratingly difficult to use cross-based system that is hard to master and not very friendly. Regardless, you can make some pretty ridiculous items with it, and they do make your journey a bit easier as you go along.
There’s no story to follow along to in Terraria, unfortunately. We wish the creators would have spent a bit more time on a bit of a linear-adventure, or at the very least, some sort of backstory, but there’s nothing really here. The game is very much an open-world (though side-scrolling) adventure, but you’re left to your own devices to figure out what you want to do and how far you want to take it. You won’t be saving any princesses here.
It’s easy to waste time in Terraria, but you’ll never quite get over that feeling because there’s no story to master or enjoy. It wasn’t designed for people who like deep adventures, though you can build up quite a stronghold in the game. It’s no Minecraft, Zelda, or Mario, but it does take some good bits of each and make what turns out to be a decent game on consoles and PC.