Lode Runner arrived on the Xbox Live Marketplace a few weeks ago in a cloud of controversy with Microsoft’s infamous price mix-up. Unfortunately, at 1200 points many gamers are saying it's simply too expensive.
The series harks back to the very early 80’s, when most people had no idea about games or computers; an unthinkable time for the youth of today.
Lode Runner doesn’t reek of a time long gone, but rather has the fresh gloss of paint, 3D graphics and fine controls one would expect from a modern title. The only real trip down memory lane that this game will have you take is from the old school music that plays throughout the menus.
The formula is still the same as in the original. Lode Runner is still an old style platformer, the kind you might have played when you were younger. It places you on a level where you guide your character around picking up bits of gold that are spread around. To collect it, all you need to make use of are the ladders, as well as your guns to blast away bits of the level giving you access to different areas, or if used incorrectly throwing you in the water. Sounds easy really, but not when you throw in the enemies, which will ruthlessly chase you all over the level, as well as steal gold for themselves. The only way to get it back is by blasting a hole in the ground and having them fall into it, at which point you can collect the gold off their heads. Fortunately, an excellent tutorial is included with the game, which makes it very easy to pick up and learn.
The game is fast paced and very challenging, and as it's exceptionally difficult to complete some levels without running into an enemy, the game rewards fast reactions and quick thinking. Only once all the gold is collected can you progress onto the next level. The game includes several different environments with different blocks, each with substantially different properties. The snow level, for example, has blocks which melt one after another simply by shooting one, whereas on rock levels the blocks need to be shot individually. The blocks are interspersed with solid indestructible blocks, and really its all just part of the puzzle. Puzzle platformers have always had limited life-spans for me, however Lode Runner’s fast pace keeps things interesting.
Bundled with the game are several game modes. There's a puzzle mode with no enemies (but trickier and trickier puzzles to complete), a mode where your sole aim is to escape enemies for as long as possible whilst picking up as much gold as possible, and of course the normal story mode which progresses you through the different levels one by one. The game also includes multiplayer, where you can take friends with you through the levels and through the different modes, though you better find a good crowd to sit around your Xbox because there was a distinct lack of players on Xbox Live. Unfortunately this seems to be the norm these days for arcade games.
On top of this a level editor has been included in which you can place your own blocks and create your own puzzles from scratch, and then share these over Xbox Live. This is definitely becoming a constant feature throughout puzzle games, and a welcome one which makes sure things remain interesting for a long time.
Hopefully not too many people were put off by the initial controversy, because Lode Runner is a solid remake. It plays fast and fun and the puzzles are challenging enough to result in some frustrations, but not too challenging to result in any equipment breakages. The graphical overhaul is a real highlight, as the game certainly is a pleasure to look at. The music is perfect, as it gives the game a real retro feel, and the history of the series included with the arcade game is interesting for new players but also for older players who want to be reminded where they first encountered the series.
Overall a really solid game which deserves to be rated for what it is. The high price of 1200 points will put some off, but its certainly worth downloading the trial to find out if it is for you or not.