Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, perhaps even Uncle Traveling Matt…all characters known for their adventures in archaeological exploring. Well, now there’s a new explorer in town and his name is Dr. Diggabone. Acting as the official protagonist, Dr. Diggabone is incredibly lazy and rather than walking around on his own accord like some kind of schmuck, he instead relies on the environment around him to flip and rotate in order to get him to gems and priceless artifacts. Confused? Just keep reading.
Lazy Raiders is a new XBLA puzzle game in which you play as the aforementioned spelunker Dr. Diggabone (or as your own Xbox Avatar). Unlike most games, you don’t actually control the main character. Instead, you control the world around him by rotating the environment 360 degrees, much along the same lines as the propulsion system in the Planet Express Ship from Futurama. While this may sound somewhat uneventful, it is actually incredibly fun and full of fast-paced action.
A large part of the excitement here is that most of the levels, presented as tombs and caverns, are full of hazardous objects that bounce around as you rotate your way to the goal. So, not only do you have to avoid objects such as deadly spikes, you also have to avoid smashing yourself with large boulders, snowballs, or even a few creatures. While certainly making the game significantly more interesting, this also makes it more difficult because you have to pay attention to where you’re falling, as well as where everything else is falling. It’s a piece of cake in early levels, but as you progress through the game, you may discover that trying to keep an eye on so many things at once can be rather tricky and perhaps a bit frustrating at times.
Although our portly adventurer can only take two hits before being “sent to the hospital”, you will have an unlimited number of lives, which makes it possible for anyone to beat the game, regardless of skill level. Extremely casual players can take this at their own pace without getting overly frustrated. And it is important to note that while Dr. Diggabone is respawning, the level can still be rotated, which can usually be used to your advantage. Of course, death comes at a price. $25,000 to be exact. If you die too often, it can prevent you from collecting all of the idols in each level. This gives incentive for achievement hunters, completionists, and collectors to play to the best of their ability. Thankfully, this game is massively enjoyable, so replaying the same level several times never feels like a chore or punishment.
With other great environment-rotating games such as And Yet It Moves and LocoRoco, Lazy Raiders certainly isn’t the first game of this nature and there is some tough competition in what is such a niche market, but it manages to hold its own and is in fact one of the best games in the small genre. The controls, which I initially had concerns with, are outstanding and very easy to pick up. Simply move the stick back and forth to rotate left or right and hit the A button to flip the level upside-down. If you find the stick too difficult to manage, simply switch the controls and use the triggers instead, although I personally found this more difficult than the default controls. Still, the option is certainly welcome.
Lazy Raiders boasts 80 levels in all, which is a fair amount, but if you enjoy the game as much as I did, they will whiz by in a blur. Once you get into a good groove, most levels won’t take more than two minutes to disable all of the traps, collect everything, and get the golden pickaxe so you can dig your way out. Many take significantly less time. The levels are also rather small, but because the game features full 360-degree rotation, there is actually a lot you can do in one maze-like level. So if you take things easy and play meticulously, you can easily get several hours out of this game. I, on the other hand, was having such a good time that I ended up blazing through it. Then once I was done, I went back and played some more. I had collected and unlocked absolutely everything during my first playthrough, but I simply hadn’t had enough yet. Still haven’t.
One thing that really stands out is that the developers manage to keep the game fresh. Before one of the three worlds has a chance to get old, you’re thrown into a new setting with new challenges. It’s nice to play through 70 levels and still run into a new kind of trap that once again changes the mechanics and requires a new kind of strategy. Even something as simple as a boulder gradually evolves into a snowball that grows as it collects snow or a ball of spikes that can be dropped into a pit of gears to unlock a door. And as you progress through the game, flipping the board becomes essential because it changes certain aspects of the level, such as turning on/off fire, transforming critters into balls, and making walls appear and disappear. Also, interspersed between sets of levels are special levels in which you must make your way to a valuable relic while avoiding thieves and simultaneously preventing them from getting the treasure first.
Another great feature is the ability to play through the entire game as your Xbox Avatar. Avatars have always had such poor game integration, so it’s a nice change of pace to actually have one starring in a superbly fun game. He or she will even sport a snazzy little explorer’s outfit, which can even be worn outside of the game. Upon completing the final level, you will also unlock the matching hat. Given the insane prices for unique avatar attire, nice unlockables such as these are a real treat. In addition to being a thoroughly enjoyable game with cool freebies, Lazy Raiders also looks and sounds fantastic. You usually won’t have time to notice in all of the commotion, but if you zoom in, you can see all of the detail that went into this game, which is rather impressive.
Aside from leaderboards, there aren’t any online aspects to the game, but it is hard to imagine why there would be. While a multiplayer mode generally adds to most games, I can’t say it would be anything but annoying and confusing, so its omission makes complete sense. Other than game length, my only genuine complaint is that there is no level editor, which would have added to the replay value immensely. If you could create your own unique levels and share them with your friends—perhaps even the world—the gameplay could easily be extended by several hours. Sure, the game doesn’t necessarily need this, but such an addition would be welcomed with open arms.
Still, even as is, Lazy Raiders is ridiculously fun. It is just about the perfect difficulty level and it provides a great sense of progression. The only thing holding it back is that there isn’t more. All things considered, that’s not so bad, and it doesn’t cause the game to be so short that it won’t be worth your money. In fact, it is well worth the 800 points because despite not being as long as I would prefer, it is loads of fun even after multiple plays. And a Downloadable Content section on the main menu suggests that perhaps more levels will be released at a later time. My fingers will be crossed. I have been told that Sarbakan has more projects in the works for the near future; if Lazy Raiders is any indication of what’s to come, I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.
Lazy Raiders was developed and published by Sarbakan Inc. It was released for the Xbox 360′s Xbox Live Arcade on February 24, 2010.