When I was little, I had three shelves of meticulously crafted Lego sets in my room. I spent hours tucked away in a little corner, lost in a fictional world of my own creation. As testament to my introverted nature, I used to get annoyed when neighborhood friends would come over to play, since I just wanted to be left to my fantasy.
Not much has changed in my adulthood, and upon introduction to Terraria (which is basically my adult equivalent of Legos), I’ve easily sunk hundreds of hours into the PC version of the game. I’ve loved the PC version from the get-go, but there’s been a part of me that has always lusted after the allure of a portable version. How amazing would it be to build those same worlds on a device that I could take anywhere? I threw $20 at the Nintendo eShop to find out.
Let me just say that after a horrendous incident with my digital version of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (involving a blizzard, spotty Wifi, and stranding myself at a chicken place next to Game Stop for 3 hours), I technically vowed never to buy a digital copy of a game again. But I wanted to try out the portable version of Terraria so badly that I made an exception.
An hour later, I fired my 3DS up to check it out. With the familiar music greeting me, and the charming 2D graphics, it was easy to forget that I was on a smaller platform…until I started playing. The controls aren’t bad, per se, so much as they just don’t mesh well with my own playstyle. Admittedly, my control schemes are usually pretty weird (you should see my hotkey setup for Final Fantasy 14), and your mileage may vary. The game encourages you to control your navigation through the multilayered world of Terraria using a combination of touchscreen and buttons, but I could never quite feel comfortable playing that way.
I’ve never been a big proponent of the touchscreen aspect of Nintendo’s handhelds. If a game gives me any kind of option for enjoying the game without using the touch controls, I’ll go out of my way to find and use that option. I’m not sure why I’m this way exactly, but suffice it to say, I’d much rather play a game traditionally.
Terraria 3DS makes an effort to allow me to do this, which I appreciated. The circle pad controls a small circle that allows you to fluidly direct your cursor. This feature isn’t perfect, and I found myself chipping away at blocks that I didn’t quite mean to hit. For more precise control, you can use the D-pad to select tiles, or simply tap on the tile on the touchscreen.
I found the latter method overly cumbersome, as it forced me to hold my 3DS with one hand while tapping with my right. This might not be such a big issue with a normal sized 3DS, but with an XL it creates a situation that makes it easy to strain your hands. On the flip side, though, I found this method much easier to build things with. The only drawback? The screen size.
No, manipulating tiny tiles on an only slightly larger screen is not ideal. But it’s definitely playable, and I could easily see myself enjoying this on a long trip, or an even longer wait in the DMV. My biggest complaint by far is that the game forces you to deposit items into a chest via touchscreen. This is a process that usually involves a lot of quick click spamming on PC. But on the 3DS, I have to force myself to either click with my thumb on the screen itself (not exactly conducive to quick deposits) or go through the entire process of getting the stylus out of the 3DS itself.
Touch screen complaints aside, it’s just difficult to immerse myself in the mobile version in the same way that I can on PC. In my Steam Controller review, I said that its main drawback was how I had to think just to perform simple actions. Terraria’s 3DS port suffers from the same flaw. Many controls are counterintuitive, and detract from the gameplay pretty heavily. In some screens, the X button deposits items, and in other screens, it trashes them. I have to click the L or R button multiple times to get to my supposed ‘quick access’ items, which leads to more deaths in game than it should. And I can also never figure out where I am in relation to the rest of the world without clicking through several menus to find my map.
Terraria’s 3DS port is awkward, but it isn’t without merit. It’s a solid translation of a very loved franchise, and while the touchscreen use was a huge negative for me, it might be a boon for a lot of players. Everything is in place that makes Terraria well, Terraria, and even though they had to cut some content to fit the game on 3DS, it mostly encapsulates the spirit of the 1.2 patch of the PC port. At $20 the game isn’t exactly a steal, but if you’re looking for that, grab the PC version for a few dollars instead. With multiplayer, updated content, a gigantic screen, and a much lower price point, you won’t be disappointed.
Have you played the 3DS port? What did you like? What could be better? Tell us in the comments below!