A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Minecraft Dungeons is an action-oriented dungeon crawling role-playing game available for download on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. The game's set in the popular Minecraft universe. After being repeatedly misunderstood and mistreated, a villager transforms into the Arch-Illager and begins ransacking the world with an army of monsters. One or more (if playing cooperative multiplayer) human heroes feel compelled to set out and stop this new villain before he can bring ruin to the land. Players explore a highly pixelated world viewed from a raised perspective, using swords, axes, hammers, bows and arrows, explosives, and magic to take on hordes of zombies, witches, spiders, and other aggressive creatures. Combat sees enemies falling and occasionally breaking apart, but there's no gore or blood, and the retro graphics almost make it look as though characters are made of toy building blocks, further reducing the intensity of battle. Parents should note that as a Minecraft spinoff, this game has an enormous built-in fan base of kids who will be clamoring to play. And while the base game's inexpensive, paid downloadable content encourages players to spend more money to unlock additional avatar skins and levels.
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What's it about?
MINECRAFT DUNGEONS -- an official spinoff of Minecraft, one of the world's most popular games -- nixes all of the resource collection and crafting activities of the original game in favor of a classic dungeon crawling experience. The game begins with the story of a misunderstood and mistreated villager getting fed up and becoming the Arch-Illager, a villain who summons an army of monsters to lay waste to towns and countryside. Playing alone or in groups of up to four (locally or online), players take on the role of nameless heroes who set out to defeat the Arch-Illager. The hack 'n' slash play is spread out across randomly generated dungeons set in caves, deserts, forests, and other classic Minecraft biomes, where players will encounter zombies, witches, spiders, and even Minecraft's classic Endermen villains. As the game progresses, players loot gemstones, weapons, armor, and other gear from treasure chests. Many of these items can be enhanced and imbued with special abilities and effects via enchantment points earned for leveling up. The base game's short (paid DLC will bring new levels that continue the story), but the randomly generated dungeons, unlockable difficulty levels, and constant quest for more powerful loot are meant to keep players coming back for some time.
Is it any good?
So long as players don't go in expecting the depth and complexity of a traditional dungeon crawler or the freedom and creativity of Minecraft, there's plenty of fun to be had here. Minecraft Dungeons does a brilliant job of streamlining typical dungeon crawler play to make it accessible to players of all skill and experience levels. Combat's blissfully straightforward (just press a button to hack with your melee weapon or pull a trigger to fire an arrow), and little time is wasted sorting through heaps of gear in complex menus. Just about anyone can pick up the basics and start having fun hacking away at monsters in a matter of minutes. And it's even more fun in groups, especially since the developers have wisely headed off any potential loot sharing conflicts by reserving important gear drops for each player. Fans of more advanced dungeon crawlers will likely pine for features such as classes, crafting, and more sophisticated loot management, but they already have games like Diablo III. This one's meant to be much more accessible and kid-friendly.
Some Minecraft fans are bound to miss the mining and constructing elements of the original, but there's no mistaking this for a Minecraft game. From its classic blocky graphics to an endless array of quirky Minecraft flourishes -- pickaxes, mine carts, redstone blocks, and Endermen, to name just a few -- the aesthetic is distinctly Minecraft. That said, there's room for improvement. The maze-like dungeons are pretty to look at and fun to explore, but they -- and the combat that takes place within them -- can become a little repetitive. A few more complex puzzles and traps would have made for a nice change of pace. Keep in mind, too, that while randomly generated dungeons provide good incentive to replay, it also makes for some needlessly confusing level architecture and pointless dead ends. You can tell these dungeons weren't handcrafted by humans. Minecraft Dungeons is wonderfully easy to jump into and play, loads of fun with family and friends, and keeps the combat family friendly. So long as you don't go in thinking you're getting a dungeon crawler with the intricacy and depth of a full-priced game, you're bound to have a great time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in the media. Is the impact of the violence in Minecraft Dungeons' affected by its pixelated graphics, which effectively reduces the intensity of combat? How do you think the game's atmosphere would change if the graphics were more realistic?
Do you prefer playing Minecraft Dungeons alone or with friends? How does the game change when playing with other people?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Microsoft Game Studios
- Release date: May 26, 2020
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence
- Last updated: November 26, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.