Minecraft Dungeons touch controls: Game Pass first impressions

By Sean Carey,
Xbox Cloud Gaming has now rolled out to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers. Over 100 games are all available to stream, but only one features touch controls, and that's Minecraft Dungeons. I'm an avid hater of mobile gaming and touch controls. Nothing infuriates me more than trying to use virtual analog sticks and mash non-tactile buttons on a tiny screen. I've never enjoyed a mobile game, mainly because of bad control schemes, so when I saw Microsoft was planning to implement touch controls into its Cloud Gaming titles, I thought I'd see if the tech giant could pull it off.

Touch controls minecraft dungeons xbox cloud gaming

For touch controls to be a success, they need to be simple to use, responsive, and somewhat unobtrusive to the overall experience. Microsoft seems to have accomplished all three of these things with Minecraft Dungeons. With Xbox Cloud Gaming, you want to be able to fire up a game and get playing straight away with or without a controller. From what Microsoft and Mojang Studios have shown with their game and touch controls, it's possible to have a great Xbox gaming experience with nothing but your phone.

In Minecraft Dungeons, you're presented with a virtual analog stick and on-screen buttons that can be customised in whatever way best suits you. A handy touch control configuration button hidden away in the top-right corner of the screen allows you to move and resize the analog stick on the left and group of buttons on the right to any position on the screen. The A, X, Y, and B buttons can all be rotated into different positions too. Actions can also be mirrored so you'll have the same size and positioning for each left and right cluster, or you can manipulate them both individually. I found that moving the inputs slightly lower and to the side out of the way made for the best experience and gave me more room to view the action. Navigating the menus and map is a little different. Mojang Studios has made it possible to explore the map and select items in your inventory using nothing but touch. The on-screen controls disappear, and the experience suddenly feels like the game was made for mobile.

Touch controls minecraft dungeons xbox cloud gaming

When playing through Minecraft Dungeons with touch controls, it all felt natural and pretty responsive, as far as gaming on a phone goes. After a few minutes, I knew where each button was located and was easily chopping down swarms of zombies and skeletons, even with the difficulty multiplier ramped up. Trying to be accurate with a bow was slightly more tricky and required slightly more precise inputs to actually land shots, but I soon got used to that. I'm not sure why, but my Minecraft Dungeons character and save file has seemingly vanished into thin air, so I've had to start the game from scratch for this article. I wanted to check out some of the harder bosses and see how the touch controls would fare, but simply didn't have the time to reach them. I did take on the Evoker mini-boss on Pumpkin Pastures. It's not the hardest boss to beat, but it does summon a bunch of flying minions all at once, and things can get pretty overwhelming if you're not quick to attack or move. Beating the Evoker was a breeze with virtual controls, and to be honest, I was so engrossed, I'd forgotten I was even playing on a phone. However, this doesn't mean there aren't issues.

Touch controls minecraft dungeons xbox cloud gaming

Xbox Cloud Gaming is still only in beta, so there are obviously going to be a few hiccups. I would sometimes find my analog stick locking into place, and my hero would run off into a crowd of enemies and quickly get cut down. A few times upon loading into a level, the controls would be fully unresponsive, meaning I'd have to close the app and load the game back up again. There is some minor input lag too, but that could be down to a number of variables, and was by no means serious enough to mar the overall experience.

Summary

Playing a fully-fledged Xbox One game on a mobile device with touch controls is obviously not going to be the ideal way to experience most games. Using a controller — or one of the fancy new handheld peripherals such as the Razer Kishi — is going to be far more comfortable and enjoyable when it comes to playing games with Xbox Cloud Gaming. Still, if you find yourself with some free time but without a console or controller, the touch controls in Minecraft Dungeons serve as a fantastic alternative. I've avoided mobile gaming in the past due to my hatred of touch controls, but if they were all as good as they are in Minecraft Dungeons, I'd definitely be willing to give mobile gaming a second chance.
Free Pass
Sean Carey
Written by Sean Carey
Sean joined the team as a Staff Writer for both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies in 2019. He games across all platforms and is always looking for an excuse to replay any of the Metal Gear Solid titles.