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As amazing a feat as Minecraft is, let's not forget the idea wasn't exactly an original one. Pinching the best bits from games like Infiniminer and Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft was definitely a case of 'the right place, the right time' for 'Notch' Petersson and his merry band.
Of course, as with any popular and massive-selling new IP, Minecraft is currently having the ass cloned out of it on just about every platform you can mention. Though there are plenty of Minecraft 'watcher apps' available on IOS, there aren't really any that replicate the game's unique blend of building and survival.
Eden - World Builder from Kingly Software manages to pull off half of the equation, basically offering a gigantic Minecraft-like sandpit to build stuff in.
For 59p you basically get a near-infinite set of building blocks and a pickaxe and it's up to you to hack something cool out of the surrounding wilderness.
Considering Minecraft's fairly substantial spec requirements on PC, Eden works very well on the iPod Touch 2G so more pokey IOS platform owners should find it works even better.
You start off in a randomly designated 'home' space, where you're dropped in from on high. This becomes your central return point so it's usually a good idea to move away from it before you start hacking great chunks out of the landscape.
The reasons for this become clear later on as Eden has a tendency to dump you straight through the bottom of the block layer you're on. If you've been creating something magical and have accidentally deployed some TNT blocks and blown the living shit out of your surroundings, it's very handy being able to save and return 'home' to get back to where you were.
The weird passing through blocks bug isn't the only 'quirk' to Eden you'll have to watch out for. The on-screen joypad control system is good for the most part but it does have a tendency to go a little askew from time to time. The joypad acts as your movement control with touches on screen acting as your lookspring, with virtual buttons representing block destroy, jump, block pick and block place functionality.
On the whole it works very well, and though it sounds a little clunky at first, you soon get used to placing blocks accurately. It's no surefire replacement for the accuracy of the mouse but it works well enough, probably better on something like the iPad.
Any Minecraft builders will know that part of the challenge is getting a decent vantage point to build from. Though Eden seems to turn a bit of a blind eye if you try to place blocks from too far a distance, it's quite easy to begin building fairly complex structures quite quickly.
Block types vary in materials though they're mostly just pixel-textured patterns. Only the TNT blocks seem to have any different attributes. Setting fire to one of these babies can set off some quite cataclysmic destruction as I mentioned before, so if you're into destroying your beautiful creations, popping a couple of these suckers into your building will have the desired effect.
You can move around the landscape fairly easily with the lookspring / joypad, and you can also jump around to navigate some of the trickier plateaus. Mostly though it's all about the building, and just like the free version of Minecraft that runs in a browser, you soon find yourself hooked into seeing just what you can construct.
With the official Minecraft still looking like it's a way off a firm release date on IOS, this is about the only stop-gap game on offer. If you fancy seeing how the building bits in Minecraft work, you could do a lot worse than pick this up. It's difficult to explain why it appeals but it does, perhaps for the same reason mucking around with lego still feels like a worthy way to pass the time even at the ragged old age of 43.