Wotcha think you're doin' here then? You think you can just waddle in like that, do ya?

This here, laddie, is a top-secret Brickspace testin' ground. Yup, thassright. So you'd better geddout before someone sees ya pokin' around...

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Back to the Future: Rock Raiders

Hello and welcome to Back to the Future, where we look back at old sets and Lego series that are making a comeback in the near future. literally, looking back to the future!

Lime green Bricks.
Weird rock monsters.
Orange danger lines all over the boxes.
Glowing bricks.
And more of those two-part hollow rock bricks than you can ever hope to count.

What's this? No, it's not some sort of weird green rocky glowy branded Jack-Stone type Lego series. It's Power Miners, the upcoming 2009 Lego series. And it's actually cool. The design of the sets has gone a long way since the Power Miners idea originally started ten years ago, in a successful series called 'Rock Raiders'. Maybe you remember...
The Underground Digger?
The distinctive Chrome Buster?
All these sets set out a distinctive crossing into the new millennium for Lego. With their shiny pieces and unique frame-cockpits (something reflected in the movie The Core, made only a few years later), and those light-up bricks.
The light-up bricks have sparked numerous duplicates in both the official Lego sets and the online Lego Community. MOCers used the Rock Raiders light-up bricks for years, until Exo-Force and Bionicle introduced smaller, more compact versions in 2006. That left the MOCers to drool over those for many, many succeeding years.
Rock Raiders is also one of the most successful of all the Lego series, with the possible exception of Lego Indiana Jones (I swear, if I see another Lego Indy Brickfilm on YouTube, I'll kill somebody). Rock Raiders: the game was released soon after the series was first opened. I've played the game myself, it's really great. For something 1999 it's really amazing, the way you can upgrade your stations and add new people, very Age of Empires. Just the thought of mining through a few more sections of stone: would could I find? What gold will I discover? Will there be another rock monster? Really, I strongly suggest you buy the game if you find it in a garage sale or, as I once saw, in one of the Lego stores.
So what makes Rock Raiders so successful? And why is it being revamped? What was going through Jørgen Vig Knudstorp's mind when he signed the twelve Lego designers off for this job?
It's a hard one. The Rock Raiders certainly brought lots of new technology to Lego: it showed Sci-Fi technology in the drills and real technology in the articulated Rock Monsters and the light-up bricks. Also, here's a picture of a set I particularly like from the 1999 range:
Let's look a bit closer at it. At first, it seems a bit dull, the brown and bley colour scheme not particularly pleasing (however, take a look at the new series' colours! Phwoar!), but it succeeds in its purpose. It would look cool to the kids of 1999. The chrome-plated drill is one of the only chrome-plated bricks that I have not seen or heard of the chrome layer peeling off: a great change from the flaking shiny lightsaber hilts. Then look closer. The walking mechanism is a clear precursor of all the future AT-STs, and the whole design looks very AT-ST. Star Wars was much cooler then, in the 90's, than it is now. Damn youn, Clone Wars! Let's add in some 'striped + battered' stickers, some drills, that cool headpiece, the frame-built cockpit, and some subtle hints of lime green. To the 1999 kid, this would be the ultimate sci-fi toy experience, and you can build up your collection with lots of new people and machines.
This is the 1999 version of a mecha.
Maybe this is the start of Japanese Manga and Sci-Fi becoming popular.
So why now? Why has the great Jørgen signed up Power Miners?
Well, let's think.
Ok, don't think. It's too dangerous nowadays.
I'll think for you. See? It's much easier now.
Manga is certainly popular nowadays, the success of Exo-Force amongst the large Japanese Lego fan-base and large TV-watching, slob Lego fan-base. Manga affects everyone, so this mecha/japanese sci-fi look to the Power Miners is certainly an upside. Then we have the bright colours and attractive box designs. If you pass these sets in Hamleys or Walmart then you should really get your eyes tested. I don't know yet, but I bet you they glow in the dark!
So, looks like Jørgen's got the winning formula yet again. Look out for those luminous sets in 2009.
Next time... Pirates 2009!

No comments: