America - Front
America - Back
By Alic0004 21st Apr 2010 | 1,155 views
Lazy Raiders is a game that's all about doing one thing well. Instead of trying to include a story that stands out from the crowd, a striking visual style, or a variety of game modes, developer Sarbakan has focused on taking their unusual idea for an action-puzzle game and crafted it into something simple and fun.
The game tells the story of Dr. Diggabone, a treasure hunter on a quest to get rich with as little exertion as possible. Thankfully, no more than fifteen seconds of text are devoted to the story throughout the entire game, and rather than wasting your precious seconds, the first lines of the game serve to introduce you to the core gameplay. The story goes something like this: Dr. Diggabone is lazy, so lazy that he has developed an aversion to walking. Help him get rich by tilting and turning upside-down ancient treasure chambers so that gravity sends the doctor falling face first into his fortune.
The job of guiding Diggabone through TV screen sized treasure tombs falls to you. The controls are impressively simple for a game that has a lot of stuff going on at once. Pressing left on the analog stick rotates the entire level counterclockwise, turning the floor into a slope that the doctor will slide down, while pressing right sends the level spinning around the other way. You get a continuous 360 degrees of rotation. The A button flips everything on its butt, so the solid ground Dr. Diggabone was standing on moments before becomes, with the power of your thumb, the cavernous ceiling he is hurtling away from. Aside from a few buttons that change the camera, that's it for the controls.
The game is in real time and the physics are very polished throughout. Everything moves as you would expect it to, and noticing the subtle ways different objects move is an important part of some of the more challenging levels. Many of the objects slide and fly around as you turn the levels upside down. Boulders, explosive boxes, snowballs that grow as they roll, vampire bats that turn into balls, loose walls, and enemy treasure thieves (also apparently too lazy to move), all put the doctor's life in peril. Not that he seems to mind - the only death penalty is a hit to your score. The doctor always respawns, and the level continues on as if nothing untoward has happened. Which actually works well, because the levels are often hard enough without having to play the start of each level over and over again.
Completing a level involves collecting a bunch of immobile items scattered around in hard-to-reach places; mainly keys that unlock color coded doors, and eventually a golden pickaxe at the end of each level. Collect enough golden pickaxes and you unlock the hardest levels, which allow you to collect actual treasure for your treasure vault.
It didn't really matter what I was collecting in the game, though. It all feels like the same end result from level to level, and this is the least compelling part of the game. The rewards all blur together and are quickly forgotten - the real focus is on the core gameplay. The occasional unlock is required, but I only had to backtrack once in the game, and that was just before the final level. The levels do build in difficulty significantly - there are three different worlds in the game, and every five levels new elements are introduced that require different, more complex approaches. However, something akin to boss fights, or new objectives, might have helped to keep things from feeling repetitive. As it is, the level design is so good that you never feel like you're doing exactly the same thing, despite the fact that you complete each level in the same way, and that simple feeling of constant progress carries the game.
As an action-puzzle game Lazy Raiders is fairly challenging. Quick thinking, reflexes, and the ability to keep track of multiple objects rolling around a level at once are the main skills you'll need. Rather than analytical puzzle solving, the main feeling of the game is just the sheer joy it harnesses by letting you spin a 2D game world upside down and watch the dance between gravity, various death traps, and the fat man within. Dr. Diggabone is kind of like your pudgy, moustachioed pet hamster, and you're the sadistic kid spinning his wheel to see him scramble. But of course, it's all virtual, so playing the game doesn't put you on the empathic level of a killer! (All the same, let's not mention this to Fox News...)
While the generic character design is something you'd expect to see in a game titled "African Safari Teaches Typing", rather than an Xbox Live Arcade game, somehow Diggabone's khaki body flailing around the trap-filled levels just fits. He's got a pretty unique skill set for a treasure hunter. Dr. Diggabone sees Nathan Drake's simian upper body strength and raises him the ability to sustain almost continuous head trauma without breaking a sweat.
The rest of the graphics never detract from the gameplay, and run perfectly smooth, but they're not particularly exciting. This is not like Braid or Castle Crashers in terms of style. The visuals are strictly functional. The game lets the player decide how zoomed in they want to play, defaulting to fully zoomed out. It can be hard to find the right zoom level at times. At the furthest zoom, entire levels fit on the screen with some wasted space around the edges, and everything is so far away that it's hard to see what's going on. Some later levels, however, are so big that you need to zoom all the way back out, which makes it hard to make out where those spikes you just saw were. It's probably better than accidentally dropping an off-screen boulder on your head, though.
The game also gives you the option of playing as your Xbox Live avatar, which makes this the best game to implement the feature thus far. It even puts you in Diggabone's duds.
The sound is a bit of a missed opportunity. The music in the early levels sounds like someone playing lounge music on an eclectic variety of percussion instruments. It's supposed to sound exotic, but it's definitely on the uninspiring side. The worst, though, is the voice they've given Dr. Diggabone. He sounds like Tim Curry's version of the Devil in the movie Legend. (If you're too young for that, he's got a low voice, ok?) All you hear throughout the entire game is the same low grunt. With a little bit of Mario's expressive range, sending Diggabone hurtling around ancient tombs could have been just that little bit more crazy and fun.
Lazy Raiders costs 800 Microsoft points, and it comes with 80 levels (counting the five from the tutorial), which you play through in order. There's also a stage select feature, so you can go back, improve your scores, and pick up things you've missed. It doesn't have any multiplayer, although it's hard to see how that would work, nor are there any minigames - the game keeps you focused on its one path. With each level taking anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, that gives you a first playthrough of around three hours, with maybe twice that to master every level and find every hidden treasure. Whether the standard $10 is too high of an asking price for that much game will vary depending on who you ask, but the actual gameplay is solid, and while it doesn't achieve anything that people will be talking about years from now, Lazy Raiders is a unique and enjoyable little game.