|I think it is safe to say that
we all grew up with Legos. And in that time the Legos have grown as wellfrom the
simple array of multi-colored building blocks that fueled my imagination as a child, to a
complex multi-media conglomerate that includes movie tie-ins, software licenses, and theme
parks in California, Denmark, and England. Yes, I played with Legos, but my son is a
Lego Medias latest offering for the PSX is Lego Rock Raiders. Based on the popular toy line of the same name, it is essentially a strategy game geared toward younger children. You see our beloved block-headed Lego men and women have ventured into space to drill and blast the terrain of other planets in search of energy crystals and special Lego ore. But things have gone awry. The primary ship was clocked by an asteroid and now hovers inoperable in space. Many of the Rock Raiders have become lost or trapped in hostile environments. You must take a team of skilled Raiders into these environments to rescue your fellow service men and women, collect Lego ore in order to build necessary equipment, and dig out enough energy crystals to repair the primary ship.
Your team consists of five Rock Raiders, each possessing unique skills suited to the different kinds of terrain you will encounter, tools you will use, vehicles you will command. For instance, Jet is good in the airhe can jump farther that the others and is faster in the various flying vehicles. Bandit is faster in the boats and, unlike the others, takes no damage from the water. But special skills will only get you so far. The planets surface is stricken with wild rivers, frozen wastelands, even torrents of lava. It is populated by crystal-eating slugs, giant scorpions, and rock monsters. And, of course, it is loaded with resources. To complete your mission you must utilize the tools of the trade. Each Raider is provided with radar, a geo-scanner and a hand drill to locate and excavate the loose rock. Denser rock will require the big stufflasers and dynamite. These you will have to find. Also scattered across the landscape are the vehicles, weapons, and extra health that will speed up your progress, help you contend with the wildlife, and generally save your butt.
Lego Rock Raiders has both one- and two-player options for gameplay. There are eighteen levels in one-player mode. The levels are divided into three sections of six, each with five to choose from initially and one special level you must unlock with points. Points are rewarded at the completion of levels and depend on a variety of factorsmostly concerning how many special crystals you collect and how fast you are able to finish. In two-player mode there are six levels, each different from the main game. While the one-player mode requires you to use the skills of you Rock Raider to complete your objectives, the two-player mode allows you to work in tandem with a partner and use each of your abilities. It also forces you to deal with their shortcomings. After all, if the two of you are working in a level that is flooded with water, only one of you can choose Bandit and walk around freely in the water without taking damage. The other is dead meat unless you cooperate.
The control is good, but not without its foibles. It is the camera movement that screws it all up. In default setting your character interacts under a fixed camera angle, moving in the direction you push on your controller. But once you enter a vehicle the camera rotates with the vehicle, so that it moves in a conventional driving mannerforward, reverse, turn left, turn right. This would be fine except that the camera movement is not subtle. Quite the contrary; it is jerky and overly sensitive, making movement squirrelly at best, nauseating at worst. You have the option of fixing the camera at all times, which I settled for, but then the movement of the vehicles is a little unconvincing.
The game presentation in Lego Rock Raiders is top-notch. The FMVs used to tell the story are humorous, entertaining, and graphically stunning. I was amazed to see such well rendered scenes in a game of this ilk. I have to say that in definition, movement, and lighting they make some of the most serious games look cheesy in comparison. The graphics during gameplay are crisp and vibrant. Sure the landscapes are edged and blocky, but this is intentionalwe are dealing with Legos here. I did notice some clipping when your characters come into contact with objects. The sound is capable, though nothing spectacularyour basic effects and electronic score. The icing on the cake has to be the puzzle games during the loading screens. Not only do they keep the rather lengthy load time from being an interruption; they actually made me look forward to it.
While the vehicles and tools are imaginative and a blast to use (often literally), taken directly from the toys, I have to admit that some of the aliens leave something to be desired. The rock monsters are cool and the slugs are comically hyper after they have eaten an energy crystal, but why spiders, snakes, and giant scorpions? Sure they are suited to the environment, but these are aliens. How about a little creativity?
The key to this game is its intended age group. This one is mainly for the kids. While I have yet to beat the time limit for maximum points, I have had no trouble at all completing the levels. I found myself constantly questioning the limitations of the tools and vehicles. Why, for example, can I not use the laser or the giant drill on the front of my vehicle on the aliens? One tool, one use, I guess. And some people have complained about the characters being tethered together in two-player mode instead of having a split-screen. But in context the games simplicity works very well for a younger crowd. Kids must experiment with their equipment and the environment to form strategies for their use. And the tethered gameplay in two-player mode forces them to come up with real strategies to complete the missions in tandem. How do you make your way across the flooded levels with only one character that is impervious to water? Well, the other character can use the plane, or they can get into the big drill-tank and have the other character carry them with the plane. Or well, you get the point. As a parent I had a blast watching my six year old son think his way through these situations and save my bacon as often as I did his. This is a real bonding game, with a lot of style and fun, the way Legos are meant to be.