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But few is not none, and Minecraft’s success has certainly inspired some other developers to try apply a similar sandbox concept to different titles. If you like Minecraft, but you’re a bit burnt out, these similar games might be a nice vacation.
At first glance, Blockland seems very similar to Minecraft, as they’re both about using available blocks to create whatever you’d like in a custom environment. Even the perspective is similar, although Blockland has a much different graphical style.
These similarities are deceiving, however. Blockland actually began life back in 2004 as a homage to Lego. After spending three years in a beta state, it went retail in 2007 and has since enjoyed a small but loyal following.
There’s arguably less game here, as Blockland doesn’t have a survival mode and isn’t about mining at all. It’s purely about building. The complexity of what you create using in-game tools is actually greater than that of Minecraft, however. Up to 32 players can join forces in multiplayer.
If imitation is the highest form of flattery, Notch and everyone else involved in Minecraft’s development should be very flattered indeed. The games are so similar that the first question in Fortresscraft’s FAQ is “Can’t you be sued for infringing Mojang’s copyright?” The developer’s answer is naive in the extreme, but that’s beside the point.
The big difference is the platform. Fortresscraft is a Xbox Live Indie project, which means that while the look and feel of Fortresscraft is similar to Minecraft, you now have the option of enjoying the game from the comfort of your couch.
Fortresscraft’s unique features relate to Xbox Live. Your avatar will be your Xbox avatar rather than a generic, blocky loser, and multiplayer is supported through the Xbox Live service. The price of $3 (240 MS Points) is hard to complain about as well.
Something of a surprise, Terraria rapidly gained attention after a successful beta. The game is something of a mash between a 2D platformer and Minecraft. While some naysayers have bashed the game as a clone, it’s the most unique game of the three Minecraft alternatives listed here.
It’s the 2D platformer elements that make Terraria distinct. Although mining resources and building structures are important parts of the game, combat is also front and center. You’ll run into monsters early and often, and your ability to maneuver and time attacks can determine success or defeat.
There’s also a robust character development element to Terraria. As you obtain new resources and attractive vendors to your structure(s) you’ll be able to obtain a wide variety of new weapons, armors and gadgets. These are critical if you want to mine your way into the deepest, darkest dungeons and beat the bosses within. Terraria supports multiplayer, although as with Minecraft, you’ll have to know the server’s IP address.
I decided on these games because I think they offer the most unique gameplay while also replicating that exploration and creativity that makes Minecraft so addictive. There are a number of other games that deserve honorable mentions, however, such as Manic Digger and Infiniminer. If you know of a great block-based sandbox game, feel free to share it in the comments.