Total Miner review: Not crafty enough

Icon for Post #18919 Genre: Sandbox
Release Date: June 24, 2011
Platform: XBLIG, Xbox 360
Price: 240 Microsoft points ($3)

Let’s not pussyfoot around the issue here. Total Miner is a clone of Minecraft. It looks like Minecraft, plays like Minecraft, and even borrows copious amounts of assets and concepts directly from Minecraft. And in just about any case, where Total Miner is different from Minecraft, the concept is lifted from Miner Dig Deep. It’s clear from our previous coverage of Total Miner that people are split about the ethics of this. I will reiterate our stance on the matter, which is that clones are not unwelcome in the gaming world. However, when a clone is going to steal the same lines and dance moves from another game without giving real credit, we here at Extra Guy relish the opportunity to pick it apart and compare it head-to-head with the game whose ideas it lifts.

That said, Total Miner is not a good game. Ever since the announcement by Mojang that Minecraft would have a port to the Xbox 360, it’s made the suffering through these clones even less bearable. Total Miner is like buying a cheap Chinese iPhone. You think you’re getting a good deal on an iPhone, but then you realize that there’s no touchscreen, the battery life is terrible, it doesn’t do Wi-Fi, and the chemicals on the screen will give you cancer. Total Miner is not quite that bad, but the letdown is comparable.

When you start playing Total Miner, you have the option to generate a standard map (called Dig Deep), or a creative map. After selecting the type of map to generate, the game goes off for a few minutes(!) and generates the map, giving you a block-built logo of Total Miner that looks suspiciously like Minecraft. Terrain generation is much faster, much nicer, and much more expansive in Minecraft. The size of the world in Total Miner is actually very limited, but Dig Deep mode actually puts the world depth at 2000 blocks.

When you spawn in the world, you spawn next to a crafting block and a shop block, which you can use to purchase items in the game. Selling and buying blocks is actually not a bad way of going about things for a Minecraft clone, but again it is lifted almost directly from Miner Dig Deep. Total Miner also steals a few other Miner Dig Deep concepts, including a 2-D cutaway of the 3-D terrain you’re standing on (which changes as you rotate, making it very confusing), crafting blueprints, the only way you’re able to make new items, and underground earthquakes/landslides, which are actually very fun, if not simply taken from Miner Dig Deep.

Once you get into the cave systems, prepare for ridiculous battles with comically oversized spiders. One of the selling points of Total Miner over Minecraft is the size of the spiders, and I can’t say they’re not bigger. In fact, they’re annoyingly big, because they’re slow, tough to kill, and make an awful, unnecessarily blood-curdling scream. Remember those scream videos from the 1990s and early 2000s? It’s that bad. Fortunately, I was able to glitch the spiders into not moving (coasting upward actually), so it wasn’t so bad.

There are a multitude of new block types, including new stone types, as well as your standard-issue Minecraft-esque TNT block (which actually takes the graphics directly from Minecraft). There is water in Total Miner, but it’s very broken. Water has no dynamics, and if you dig it in a way that would flood a cavern, it actually won’t let you dig that block, and spams your screen with the message “CAN’T CLEAR MIGHT FLOOD”.

I suppose that Total Miner being a mashup of Minecraft and Miner Dig Deep might not be such a bad idea. However, the game is still quite broken and incomplete, much like FortressCraft, its XBLIG craftalike predecessor. When I realized the potential of using the Miner Dig Deep concept in a Minecraft-like 3D setting, I was even more disappointed that the game came up so short. Even a simple set of mods for Minecraft might make the Miner Dig Deep featureset a reality in Minecraft. A lot of the game works well, if not slowly, but the parts that are broken are just heartbreaking. There’s a world where the Minecraft clone wars produce something truly amazing. We’re just not there yet.

Correction: In this article, we incorrectly referred to a planned second chapter of Total Miner called Total Miner: War.  There is no planned second chapter, and we regret the error.

About Bill

Bill is currently the tallest member of the Extra Guy staff. His quick wit and sultry voice make him a shockingly deadly opponent when playing online games with voice chat enabled. You will be swooned. When Bill's not busy slaying dragons, pwning n00bs or crafting structures, he plays in an electronically-influenced indie rock band that goes by the name Canary Girls.

Currently playing: Skyrim (PS3), CastleMiner Z (XBLIG)