Lode Runner is a revamped look at the classic arcade title that has been released on nearly every gaming platform in some form or another since its initial launch back in 1983. The game touts sharp graphics, frantic gameplay, and a multitude of game modes encompassing single-player, co-op, and competitive play. What’s more, the fun will likely never end, as players are given an excellent, easy-to-use level editor and an even better way to share their work with the community at large.
Lode Runner is a simple arcade title that has found success for over 25 years. To mark the silver anniversary, Lode Runner has once again released, this time exclusively for the Xbox LIVE Arcade. Lode Runner has players take on the role of a greedy, risk-taking adventurer in search of his fortune across five unique environments. The object of the game is to clear each level by picking up every golden lode or relic and exiting through a newly-opened door, reaching a pop-up computer terminal, or finding a once-hidden pathway. The quicker this is done, the more bonus points you will be awarded. It sounds simple, but it is made difficult by the constant pursuit of guardians intent on your demise. The enemy A.I. is quite smart; you’ll have to constantly be thinking how to best outsmart them, making Lode Runner both a test of your reflexes and your mental fortitude. The best way to describe gameplay in Lode Runner is to think of it as a mix between Mario Bros., Pac-Man, and Mappy (three amazing arcade titles in their own right).
In order to evade the baddies and avoid an untimely end, players will need to make use of their environment and limited capabilities. Employing the left analog stick, players will cruise around the game’s levels using ladders, vines, and platforms to their advantage. Also, players can blast potholes into the ground with their hand cannons by pressing A or B (or LB/RB and LT/RT) in order to temporarily trap enemies. Finally, players can fall on the heads of attackers (or partners) and use their new found height to reach previously inaccessible areas or simply ride their enemy’s fall down to an ideal platform. You’ll notice I said “fall” rather than “hop” onto their heads. That’s because there is no jumping in Lode Runner – that would make things too easy. Also, hand cannons can only be used to make holes in the ground – you’ll never be able to use them directly against your foes.
Limiting abilities and the use of indirect combat lead to frantic, puzzling gameplay that is highly addictive and extremely challenging. Using only the left stick and two face buttons harkens back to the days of old, making the game accessible for all ages. That being said, Lode Runner is an extremely difficult game as you progress, requiring patience and skill to master. The only real point of consternation I found with the controls concerned the character’s slow use of the hand cannons. Oftentimes, I would find myself getting nabbed by a baddie that should have fallen prey to my pothole, but my plan was foiled by the sluggish response of my weaponry. While this certainly doesn’t break the game, it does slow the pacing down considerably and can be quite frustrating, especially when you’re on a roll, racking up points and cruising though levels only to be thwarted by unresponsive controls..
The game’s main mode of play is the single-player campaign known simply as Journey – an adventure that leads you through multiple environments. However, once the patterns of these levels are committed to memory, there isn’t any challenge left, somewhat hindering the replayability of Journey mode. Thankfully, the game also sports a host of other single-player options, though they too eventually suffer the same fate. Nevertheless, an intriguing variation on the adventure is called Hang On. This mode has you running around, collecting gold, and avoiding ever-greater numbers of enemies. The goal of this mode is not to progress to the next level, but rather to survive long enough to set new records. Each phase has its own gold-collecting goals. Players that attain these goals will be awarded with bronze, silver, gold, and diamond ranks. Players can also take on 50 stages of mind-bending puzzles. The object in this mode is to get all the gold as quickly as you can. Sounds familiar, but the main difference is that there is only one way to solve the puzzle – one wrong move and you’ll be trapped! Finally, as with the original Lode Runner, players have access to a user-friendly level editor, which allows you to create wholly original levels or doctor existing levels to your liking. What’s more, sharing your creations with others is a snap. You’ll simply host or join a lobby where players are sharing levels, and you’ll be able to peruse and preview their lists and take what seems most interesting.
As fun as the single-player modes are, you can also play this game locally or online both cooperatively and competitively. Players can join up with friends either on the couch or via Xbox LIVE and play a Co-op Journey or Puzzle. Also, the competitive Lastman mode will have you and up to three other friends running for your lives, seeing who can last the longest. The players who get nabbed first will be converted to monsters and join in on the chase. Playing Lastman over LIVE will allow you to play in ranked matches which are tracked on the leaderboards. This game really does an excellent job of bringing players together and fomenting a sense of community. All players will have their stats tracked, and the high scores attained in single-player, co-op, and competitive matches will be constantly sent to the servers for bragging rights.
Playing Lastman over LIVE will allow you to play in ranked matches which are tracked on the leaderboards. This game really does an excellent job of bringing players together and fomenting a sense of community. All players will have their stats tracked, and the high scores attained in single-player, co-op, and competitive matches will be constantly sent to the servers for bragging rights.
Lode Runner gives players a fine visual and aural package. The game supports 1080i resolution, is rendered in 3D despite the 2D action, and never suffers from any glitches. The character and enemy designs are nothing special, but they are still reminiscent of the game’s roots. The five different environments covering jungles, mines, mechanical factories, volcanoes, and icy realms are all nicely depicted. The tunes are quite catchy. The simple electronic riffs are suggestive of a bygone era, fitting nicely with the game’s history and lodging themselves squarely in the back of your mind.
Some nice touches to this package include a History tab that gives you a brief timeline concerning key events, facts, and releases of the Lode Runner franchise. Also, this is the most expansive and complex Lode Runner to date. For example, the game packs in 220 levels for you to run through. Additionally, new terrain including avalanche, stalactites, and blast blocks keep gameplay varied. There are also diverse environments and enemies you’ll have to take on. There’s even a between-level, puzzle-like mini-game where you’ll have to collect energy balls in order to add to your life tally. Finally, players will also run into hidden enemies they’ll unearth along with buried diamonds.
All of these innovations along with the tons of single-player, cooperative, and competitive modes make this the best and most complete Lode Runner ever. Though the game is a touch on the expensive side when compared to other XBLA titles (1200 MS points), you won’t regret spending the $15 for a moment.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
The visuals are crisp and endearing, but nothing that will wow you. 4.4 Control
Two buttons and a joystick prove to be the perfect setup. Too bad the hand cannons are so slow to respond. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The upbeat electric tunes are a reminder of the days of yore. 4.8 Play Value
This game could easily be played for a decade, especially considering all the free downloadable content you can pick up and the multiplayer modes that are available. The only slight knock is that once you commit a levels resolution pattern to memory, it no longer holds any challenge. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.