Lode Runner (XBLA)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Saturday, April 25, 2009

Graphics: 8.00
Sound: 6.50
Gameplay: 10.00
Replays: 10.00
Gamelength: 10.00

The curtain has officially been pulled open and “Lode Runner” is finally here for Xbox Live Arcade.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary based on the original release of “Lode Runner”, developer Tozai Games has completely rebuilt the game from the ground up. Those who have played the original game will feel right at home here, but the major engine overhaul will appeal modern gamers, thanks to massively overhauled graphics and a very user-friendly control scheme. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself now, though, so let’s get on with the show! Prepare for a wonderfully updated blast from the past in the very challenging world of “Lode Runner” for Xbox Live Arcade.

Seeing as the game stays true to the original title for the most part, the biggest improvement is the complete visual style change. Instead of oldschool 8-bit graphics, we now have modern high definition graphics with nifty special effects in all of the right places. The characters are all very charming, while the level design and backgrounds are all built around area-specific themes. You’ll start off in the mines, but the game has a few different areas, which include volcano and machine themes, among other things. One of the coolest little special effects is the use of common modern lighting techniques, such as the way the developers made the gold shine. Awesome lighting techniques are everywhere these days, but when we’re talking about a 25 year-old game, it’s a pretty big deal. From the very clear text to the shiny gold, there’s no doubt about it; “Lode Runner” definitely has great graphics for a 2D style game.

Music doesn’t really play a large part in this game. In fact, I recommend simply using custom soundtracks or even turning the music off altogether. Sound effects, on the other hand, are fine and can be left on. There’s no voice acting and characters don’t make much noise aside from the beam shots of the main character, but really, that’s a good thing. These oldschool games have a very repetitious style, which means overused sound effects would drive some people crazy eventually.

Repetitious as the style itself may be, there’s a whole lot of variety to be found in this wonderful game. For those of you who have no idea what “Lode Runner” is, let me get you up to speed. The concept of the game is generally to collect all of the gold in a level and find your way to the exit. During your search for gold, you’ll be chased by enemies, but you’ll also run into tons of traps that’ll lead to your death if you don’t use your head. There’s no actual combat and you can’t jump, but you do have a beam gun that can destroy different types of blocks as you move along. That beam gun is pretty much the sole basis of the “Lode Runner” design. If an enemy is chasing behind you, simply destroy a block as you walk away from the enemy and it’ll fall into the hole, which gives you time to catch your breath. The mechanics are really that simple and to make things even easier to grasp, every level is set up in single-screen fashion, which means it’s not difficult to take in your surroundings and start plotting your course. This game involves a lot of trial and error, so prepare for that. You’ll die a whole lot. It’s damn near unavoidable. Anyhow, now that we’ve caught the newbies up, let’s move on. The controls are extremely simple. The right trigger fires the beam gun under you and to the right, while the left trigger fires the beam under you and to the left. Both the joystick and the d-pad are viable options for movement. That’s truly all there is to it. The game is extremely simple to control! There’s a whole lot to do, so expect this game to take many, many hours of your life away. Of the game’s many levels, 14 are “Practice” levels, which serve as the game’s extensive tutorial of each and every mechanic you’ll need to know about. The remaining are split up in the following categories: “Journey”, “Hang On” and “Puzzle”. The gameplay in every mode is identical, but the levels are designed to fit the theme of each mode better. “Journey” is the standard game mode and has a good mix of levels. “Hang On” has levels designed as enemy-filled chases that aren’t all too unlike “Pac-Man”. Finally, “Puzzle” levels are designed to be very brain-heavy and require a lot of thought to get through. There’s no “most difficult mode” because they all start off moderately easy and eventually become obscenely challenging, which is one of the best parts about the game. Aside from those core game modes, though, there’s a level editor, which allows players to completely design their own levels from scratch. The level editor is very easy to use and even the most novice gamers will easily be capable of designing a killer level. Throw in a solid multiplayer mode that’s actually a fun challenge and you have one of the best values on the XBox Live marketplace to date. The multiplayer not only allows you to do a few of the core game modes, but there are also other modes, such as “Tag”, which is exactly what the name implies. All told, the Xbox Live Arcade version of “Lode Runner” is a fantastic game that was worth the wait and will surely keep buyers busy for a very long time.

Overall, Tozai Games did a great job. This is easily the best iteration of the series to date and it’s going to be very difficult for them to top this in the future.

Pros:
-Very nice 3D visuals with a slick 2D style.
-True to the original game, but still much improved.
-Tons of levels.
-Impressive amount of variation.
-Level editor is awesome and easy to use.
-Controls are very simple and have absolutely no learning curve.
-Tutorial levels are all you could ever ask for; more games need these!
-Multiplayer is very solid and lag-free.

Cons:
-May be too difficult later on for some players.
-Multiplayer may not have a lasting community, regardless of how fun it is.
-Music is literally forgettable.

Bottom line:
Fans of the other “Lode Runner” games definitely need to buy this. Everyone else should try out the demo, but I have a creeping feeling that you wont be let down! This game is worth the money and then some!

Overall Rating: 9.50

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