(Pocket-lint) - The closed beta of Minecraft Earth is currently rolling out to several cities in the UK and US, with access being given to many of those who signed up in advance.
Some Apple iPhone owners in London and Seattle have reportedly been able to play it so far, and more are expected to be invited to try the beta test version soon.
We at Pocket-lint have also been trialling the new augmented reality game over for a couple of weeks and here are our thoughts and tips on what you can do in the closed beta and how to start.
It's important to note that any progress made during the closed beta of Minecraft Earth will not carry on when the full game is released. And, many features of the final release are not yet available.
However, read on if you want to know more.
What is the Minecraft Earth closed beta?
It is an AR game for iOS and Android that enables us to build Minecraft creations, either collaboratively or with friends, that are overlaid onto the real world for others to find, see and interact with.
Some of the gameplay revolves around collecting materials and mobs to build with, while the rest is dedicated to building mini Minecraft worlds.
An adventure mode will be added to the final release version of the game to be released at a later date, which will enable players to experience builds in a different way, but that's not part of the closed beta trial.
Nor is the online storefront. You cannot, therefore, currently buy skins or mobs with cash - only collect them through the game.
How do you play Minecraft Earth?
You might see familiarities between the main screen in Minecraft Earth and Pokemon Go (and other AR games). It shows your character - using either male Steve skin or female Alex - on a map of your real world location. All around you will be collectable building resources and the occasional mob - a pig, duck, etc.
They appear in a catchment radius, represented by a circle around your position. Any within that circle are within reach.
You tap on them to collect them, which will break them down into their individual elements (blocks), which will be added to your inventory for use when building.
Mobs will remain whole and can also be added to builds once collected.
Minecraft Earth on-screen menu
Along the bottom of the screen are the different menu options.
On the far-left you can open your inventory of collected items and equip them for use. The next menu icon is to scan for friend invite codes. We are yet to play with someone who also has closed beta access, so that's not proved to be much use for us yet.
The next menu is perhaps the most important for now as it allows you to start a build or continue with an existing project.
At present, you are presented with several templates to adapt. They are ranked by your player level (which rises as you build and collect materials) and only unlock when you've reached each specific level.
There are two options for a build. Either place it on the ground to see what it looks like in the real world, or as a buildplate to get close up to change how it looks. Every time you quit this mode it will save the template to reflect your modifications.
There is a settings menu to turn off the traditional Minecraft music and the like, and an option to turn on/off precise mode.
Precise mode, when switched on, allows you to turn your avatar using your finger. If off, you have to physically turn around to see all of the objects within the catchment radius.
That's basically it for now. There's not much to the closed beta as it is designed as a stress test for Microsoft rather than a full experience to enjoy on your travels. However, there's still enough there to get a feel for how it will work on release and, although your builds won't survive the switch over, it's worth it to see what you are capable of making so you can eventually hit the ground running.
Our first impressions
The Minecraft Earth closed beta is remarkably simple. Being honest, there's not really that much to do right now and until more people are accepted, few friends to share it with.
The adventure mode will surely spice things up. As will the expansion of players, who will drop their builds around the world for you to check out.
It's more potential that perfect as it stands, although we do like the idea that it's actually a lot easier to jump into than PG and Wizard's Unite. That means it will be more suitable for younger players too.
Unfortunately, that means parents will have to hand over their phones to their kids once again, rinsing the battery in the process. But, Minecraft Earth is a more collaborative game anyway, so we might find it becoming an outdoors family pursuit in future.
You can still sign up to be part of the closed beta here.