CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Don't be fooled by the colorful 16-bit appearance of "Terraria," the hit PC game that recently made the jump to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. For to see the true beauty of this ambitious adventure game, you need to -- both figuratively and literally -- look beneath the surface.
Indeed, the retro, SNES-era graphics belie the staggering amount of depth found in "Terraria," a game that puts its own spin on the create-and-explore genre popularized by "Minecraft."
Each game of "Terraria" begins with a randomly generated world populated by all sorts of various creatures and monsters plus the raw materials you'll need to build a shelter, craft armor and create the weapons and tools necessary to survive. There's no story here, per se, just your character and your own imagination.
Much of the early game is spent exploring the game world and harvesting its resources, with a full day-night cycle serving as a constant reminder of the dangers that lurk all around you, especially once the sun goes down. As most monsters are incapable of entering your house, building a suitable shelter is of the utmost importance. The house serves as your central hub, the place you'll go to craft items and interact with NPCs who move into your dwelling with you. There are hundreds of items to create, from swords and bows to jet packs and lasers, but finding the materials needed to build each one requires you to dig a little deeper.
While there's plenty to see and do on the surface level, the real fun in "Terraria" begins once you start tunneling down. Each world is filled with vast underground shafts that connect expansive biomes populated with the most dangerous creatures and bosses. It is here where you'll find the rare resources needed craft the most powerful items. Exploring the depths and collecting its goods can be addictive, but the desire to press forward is tempered by the need to continually return to your home to create new items and upgrade your base.
If there's any knock on "Terraria" it's that the user interface can be rather intimidating, especially in the early going. Sorting through your inventory and the various menus is awkward and the only real concession to the game being ported to consoles. After a while, though, the UI becomes little more than a mild inconvenience and you'll soon be creating everything you need with relative ease.
Rather than simply copy the formula popularized by "Minecraft," "Terraria" puts its own unique spin on the genre by emphasizing action and exploration. For gamers with a sense of adventure and a flair for creativity, this is the ultimate virtual sandbox.
Developer: Re-Logic, Engine Software
Publisher: 505 Games
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC ($10)
Rating: T for teen
Reach Jeff Rider at 304-348-5122 or jri...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/gazette_gamer.