I knew it would happen eventually. A celebration of retro blocky graphics? A simple and yet deceptively deep interface for constructing a virtual world? Zombies? The question was not if I’d get sucked into the little indie gem that’s taking the gaming world by storm, but when. Turns out when is now.

So I plunk down my 10 euro and register for the alpha. The game randomly generates my first world, and I find myself standing on a small sandbar a short ways off a mountainous coast.

I start to play around and figure out the mechanics. My first discovery: that blocky trapezoidal thing on the lower right is my hand, apparently. Also, I can’t swim.

Those little bubbles above my hearts are decreasing rapidly, and I think I know what happens when they run out, so I struggle with the floaty jumping controls and manage to make my way back to land. It seems a little cruel for the game to spawn me so far away from solid ground, but it’s an appropriate early hint that this world isn’t going to let me exploit its resources without putting up a fight.

I know that this game has zombies, and I know they only come out at night. But by the time I’ve reached the shore, the sun is already overhead, and moving rapidly back for the horizon. I need to start building defenses, and fast.

I find a nice hill overlooking the water, perfect for the simple beginnings of what I envision as an imposing fortress. I don’t have much time today, so I bash at the ground for a while until I’ve amassed a good amount of earthen bricks. Then I construct a simple boxy house with a window on each wall. Hopefully this will keep the zombies out, while giving me a reasonable amount of visibility so I can observe their movements.

While collecting wood, I notice that this world has a pretty laissez-faire attitude toward gravity.

It isn’t long before the sky begins to darken. I retreat to my little hut, block up the entrance, and watch the lovely pixelated sunset.

Wow, I didn’t realize just how dark it got at night here. I can barely see anything, aside from the moon and the stars. I’m starting to wish I’d had time to build a tower or something; these windows are not much use for -

What was that? I heard something screeching. Now I hear movement. I can barely make some moving shapes outside.

Panicking, I board up all my windows, in case the zombies can somehow jump through them. This results in absolute pitch blackness. For a few maddening minutes I try to ride out the night while ungodly moans and shrieks pierce the emptiness around me. I can’t handle it. I bash open the wall again, and I’m met with a decidedly unfriendly face.

Good God, I never thought a blotch of color on a few cubes could be so scary. But at least he can’t get into my hut, right? I start to relax, just before I notice a strange hissing sound.

The zombie explodes.

HOLY JESUS I had no idea they could do that. In an instant half of my hut is completely leveled, my fortified box wide open to the monsters outside like a Happy Meal. I sprint out into the open and I’m set upon immediately by the zombie’s friends. In a matter of seconds they’ve taken me out, and apparently killed my score as well.

Still shaken, I go ahead and click “Respawn.” Time to give this another try. Instantly I’m back on my little sandbar out on the water, a good half-mile or so from my destroyed house. The good news? No zombies out here.

The moon is still high in the sky, and there’s no way I’m going to try to navigate these treacherous waters in the dark, so I’m staying put. This seems like the safest spot I’ve found so far anyway. I have plenty of time to kill, so I start playing around with the sand. I discover that it doesn’t have the same anti-gravity properties of leaves and dirt, so it immediately falls whenever I dig underneath it. This is surprisingly limiting, and my sandcastle (from what little I can see) suffers for it.

The sun is starting to rise again, to my relief. That should get rid of the zombies so I can start - oh dear.

Zombies can swim? This is yet another game-changer. Well, if I just wait a moment the sun should be up and the zombies will disappear or something, right?

The sun is seriously taking its time, and this zombie sees me now. I back away and immediately fall into the water. My options are looking very limited.

I keep running from the zombie with what little purchase I have on the tiny island, cursing my lack of weapons, planning, and athletic ability. Suddenly the zombie bursts into flame. Looks like the sun finally did its job. I’m saved!

…until I back into the water, at which point the zombie follows me and the flame is extinguished. The zombie catches fire again when I run back on the sand, but not fast enough to save me from yet another ignoble death.

Two deaths in one day. I’m really on a roll. I respawn again, about five feet from where I died. The zombie has apparently burnt completely away, leaving behind only…a feather? A knife? Something better than a zombie, at least. I pick it up, gazing at the rising sun and hoping this new day brings me more luck.

Next entry: crumbled rubble and new plans.