Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Phone, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire.
We played on: PlayStation Vita
Terraria is an action-adventure game set in a two-dimensional open world containing a wide variety of creatures, plants, and ores. It’s a lot like Minecraft—it sounds simple, but it quickly adds layers of exploration, crafting, and combat as players build their worlds.
Although Terraria has no explicit story, it has plenty of room for players to develop imaginative play with characters taking on different fantasy roles. Players start the game with three tools: a pickax for mining, a short sword for combat, and an ax for woodcutting. These tools enable you to acquire the resources needed to craft new items and equipment that help you explore deeper into the world by completing a variety of goals. There’s always something more to make and collect, which keeps you coming back for more.
So far, Terraria may sound just like Minecraft. However, it’s played from the side in two dimensions. This simplifies navigation but doesn’t preclude the huge number of options for creativity and discovery. Along with the basic single-player game, there are multiplayer worlds in which many players can team up to craft, build, and slay monsters. There is also a player-versus-player mode, which allows players to fight against each other, either as every man for himself or in color-coded teams.
Although the game does feature combat, its focus on building and exploration is the central theme. Children can use their understanding of the real world to work out how to craft materials in the game, using wood to make walls and workbenches, stone to build houses, and so on.
Crafting in a virtual world enables children to create almost anything their imagination can conceive. Experimenting in this way may lead to a desire to replicate the experience in the real world, complementing their virtual skills with real-world design and construction skills.
Terraria is rated T for Teen with content descriptors for Blood and Gore, Cartoon Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, and Use of Alcohol. The rating from the ESRB comes from fantastical and cartoony enemies such as slime creatures, vultures, zombies, and flying eyeballs. Players use swords and axes to kill enemies, and some give off blood when struck.
The dialogue also describes the manner of death in detail. Phrases like “face was torn off by a Zombie” and “eviscerated by a Zombie” are typical. Some dialogue also contains suggestive material like “I don’t give happy endings” and “too bad she’s such a prude.”
Players can also craft kegs and drink ale, which can label their status as “tipsy.”
Some may dismiss Terraria as another Minecraft knockoff, but doing so would a be a mistake. Terraria has a unique approach to open-world gameplay and exploration. Its side-on, procedurally generated landscapes hide within themselves all manner of surprises and offer a perfect alternative to more mainstream block-building options for families.