Just about every retro gamer can all say with pride “I played Lode Runner”. First found on the Apple II, Lode Runner has come a long way since 1983. Tozai and Southend Interactive have resurrected this classic, and packaged it for the Xbox Live Arcade.
All in all, not much has changed, and that’s not a bad thing.
Traditionally, Lode Runner has featured a man with a laser pistol who runs through the world in search of gold. While attempting this daring feat, he is faced by killer monks, who can be stopped by shooting a hole in the ground which creates a gap for them to fall in. Lode Runner XBLA is essentially the original game with a fresh coat of “bionic paint”. Instead of a pistol, the heroes of this iteration have gun-arms, which in my opinion isn’t really neccesary, but it works. Graphically Lode Runner is a bit too “bright color” heavy, which gives it an odd feel. The environments, however, are top-notch, and each world looks very different from the last.
Lode Runner XBLA controls fairly well. You won’t find yourself making many mistakes that aren’t your fault, and the gameplay, surprisingly, doesn’t feel that dated. The button layout is extremely simple: your character can fire left with L, and right with R. You might find it strange that you are unable to jump over gaps, and find yourself falling straight down instead of at an angle, but once you climb that initial wall of shock, it’s smooth sailing. Newcomers, don’t worry, there’s a comprehensive tutorial designed to hold your hand and teach you every facet of the game.
The single player mode is seamless; you’ll love it. I found myself drawing comparisons to Crash Bandicoot: once the level is over, you find the exit door or sign, and just keep on going through another quick “hub” level. It’s a nice addition to the old-school “stage-based” gameplay of the original Lode Runner titles. In the past, the vast majority of Lode Runner games had similar themes, enemies, and all of the level objects felt the same. Lode Runner XBLA goes out of it’s way to make every “theme” feel completely different, from the functionality of the blocks, to the enemy models. The enemies’ AI is “classically questionable”. Sometimes they’ll stop pursuing you completely, and generally, they are on a fixed, homing path-finding route, which means you can trick them fairly easily. In numbers, however, they will get the best of you, so keep running!
Hardcore gamers will also love the game’s inclusion of advanced techniques, such as riding on enemies’ and partners’ heads to obtain out of reach gold. The “factory” levels will also have you scratching your head when multiple tiles just drop below your feet. Another neat new addition is the inclusion of a hidden enemy in every single player level, that will drop a gem when dug up. Completionists will not only have fun trekking through the game, but finding every hidden gem as well.
As a side note, even though gaming purists will revel at the inclusion of the “game over” screen, it doesn’t really mean much, because you continue your quest on the exact same level you left off; you just lose your points. Eventually, you’ll be praising this inclusion as the game gets ridiculously hard. Sometimes you’ll meticulously power all the way to the last gold piece, only to find yourself perishing in a cheap manner.
With leaderboards, 50 puzzles, 8 survival challenges, a level editor, and multiplayer modes, you’ll be hard pressed to give up Lode Runner anytime soon. Hardcore gamers will revel in the game’s survival mode; a game-set that forces you to collect a ton of gold while additional enemies constantly spawn in short intervals. Puzzle aficionados will enjoy the game’s puzzle mode, that requires quick thinking in order to blast the correct blocks to complete a level. You can run through a unique set of levels with another friend (all of which require cooperation), and if you have more than one buddy over, try the four player deathmatch; it’s not nearly as fleshed out as say, Smash Brothers, but it’s a decently fun party game. Oh, and did I mention leaderboards?
The level editor deserves a bit of mention, because it allows you to share your creations with others, and make “the perfect level”, with everything from the game at your disposal. Considering the original was known as the “first big level editing game”, it just wouldn’t be “Lode Runner” without it. This version also includes a neat “history of Lode Runner” document you can skim through: as you can see, this game isn’t lacking in the value department.
All-in-all, $15 is a steep asking price, but Lode Runner delivers. There’s a ton of single and multi-player content to keep you going, and I would say this is a “must-have” for fans of the original. Even though it could have benefited from a few more gameplay “bells and whistles”, you’ll find yourself tackling the game’s various modes for a long time to come.
Graphically Lode Runner isn't very impressive, and it tries too much to replicate Bionic Commando.
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A few tidbits could have been added (like extra power-ups found in Loderunner PC), but all in all Lode Runner is a very simple and satisfiying experience.
With a very serviceable soundtrack and adequate sound cues, there isn't much to complain about here.
There are more levels and modes than you can shake a stick at, plus offline 4 player multiplayer support.
A few flaws aren't enough to bring down this classic revival.