Go into any young boy's toy chest and you're likely to find some Lego pieces in there somewhere. Like the Erector Set and Lincoln Logs, Legos have stood the test of time as a toy that generation after generation of young bucks can enjoy. This would usually provide an easy way for a company producing video games to make some loot, but with Lego Rock Raiders, this might not be the case. Somewhere in the transition from drawing board to television screen, something has gone awry.
In Lego Rock Raiders, you play as one of several Lego characters instructed to mine an alien planet for precious energy crystals and ore. As you might expect, the indigenous creatures aren't too keen on the idea of giving up their planet's goods to plastic men with black dots for eyes. As one of the several Rock Raiders, it's your job to mine the rock on the planet for the energy crystals and ore or, in some cases, to rescue the other Raiders who may have pitifully found themselves in trouble. There is a two-player mode available for up to six levels, but as the instruction manual puts it, they are designed "just for fun."
The first few minutes playing Rock Raiders makes the game seem like it's going to be an endless search to find the few places where your imbecile drill can work. Once you begin to use the radar, the loose rock appears a brighter green than the rest of the level, and any difficulty the game may have had quickly jumps on the next train to Easyville. The level design isn't exactly mystifying. As each of the 18 linear levels begins, you start with a simple drill that will destroy the loose rock. As you progress through the level, you find more-powerful tools that allow you to turn the medium and hard rock into rubble. When dealing with solid rock, you can use dynamite to blast open the way through. As you finish each level, you are awarded a medal based on your performance, and you may go back to replay previous levels in attempts at a golden glory. Take note, this is not recommended.
While using a hand drill falls just shy of buffoonery, the vehicles are by far the shining stars in the Lego Rock Raiders sky. If you collect enough ore, the usually tucked-away LMS Explorer located in every level can be used to construct anything from an armored tanker that ejects menacing laser blasts, to a massive double-bladed carrier chopper. While every vehicle controls identically whether land-based or airborne, each one is able to either traverse an area that was previously inaccessible or destroy once-thought-immovable rock masses. Vehicle control is so erratic in one particular vehicle that you become dizzy from the spinning. Controlling the jumping of your Rock Raider while on foot is stupefying though not required all that often. There aren't exactly swarms of enemies dashing on; the biggest obstacle to overcome is maintaining control around dangerous areas. This is about the only way you will ever die. The oft-repeated enemies will rush at you and bump you, but there's so much health lying around that it never becomes an issue.
Lego Rock Raiders' visuals also fail to impress; we're talking first-generation PlayStation graphics. Every level looks almost identical to the one before, and if it weren't for the rock radar, playing this game would be akin to reconstructive knee surgery. The explosions are popular with the people for a little while, but by the eighth or ninth level, their allure quickly fades. This too can be said of the monotonous gameplay. Some of the vehicles are fairly impressive but are not worth taking the time to experience the rest of the game. Not helping matters, the loading time for each level clocked in at a hefty half-minute. Considering how little texture swapping is taking place, this isn't a good thing. The sound is adequate minus the two tracks that are obnoxiously repeated as the sounds of the explosions get the woofers shaking.
When it's all said and done, the small things that are done right are far outweighed by the multitude of those done wrong. The only motivation to continue playing Lego Rock Raiders is to see the next portion of a decent FMV sequence that only serves as a reminder of how much better the game could have been.