Pain is the name of the game for Lode Runner. In this package, you get a fair amount of game for your money, in particular because the puzzles are quite difficult. There are over 200 stages included, many of which are multiplayer only. If that isn't enough, the game has a built-in level editor which allows you to create and trade puzzles with your friends online. There are also a couple of gamerpics to unlock in addition to the standard 12 achievements for 200 gamerscore points.
$15 (1,200 MS points)
Control & Gameplay
You can use the sticks or the d-pad to move your guy, meaning the game is just as playable with an arcade stick as a standard controller. We're not sure if the dude has a name, but he can shoot down and to the right or down and to the left while standing, running, or climbing. He can't jump, and thankfully, he won't die if he falls from a great height. If you've never played a Lode Runner game before, or haven't touched one for more than 20 years, you'll be able to figure this one out in less than 15 minutes. (The control, mind you, not the puzzles.)
When you shoot, depending on the floor squares, you can dig a hole for enemies to fall into or for your player to fall through. The gameplay is basically find gold, run, repeat. Get all the gold and head for the exit, and you're a winner! Of course, these hairy monsters and ghoulish characters are always chasing you, and they'll even stop and wait for you to move so they can counter you accordingly. While not the most clever villains ever, these distinctive characters are quite capable of staying still until you get close enough for them to run at you as you climb a ladder, for example.
Graphics & Sound
While the company's previous game R-Type Dimensions used classic music and let you switch between modern or 1980s-style graphics, Lode Runner keeps you in the modern era with its 3D-rendered 2D levels with new music. There's a nice variety of music that sounds sort of what like you might assume the original game to have sounded like if the classic Apple computer's sound card wasn't, by modern standards, junk.
One feature we found to be distracting while watching other players play was a sort of a slight sway in the screen, the whole stage tends to move ever-so-slightly as you go through the caverns, ruins, and icy mountains. When focused on the running and the stealing of gold, you really won't notice this-- but as you see someone else play it's pretty obvious.
Due to the level designs, it seems that this game would be difficult to play on a standard-definition CRT television. The characters can get pretty small, so be thankful you can confirm how they look for yourself when you download the free demo.
We were unable to test the online multiplayer due to lack of opponents/companions to be found when we were playing.
However, we did manage to try out the local puzzles, which are quite devious. The monsters seem to go after similarly colored players, so the red beast will chase the red player. You absolutely need to talk to one another, as these special levels were designed to use another playable character to finish them. You might need to stand on someone else's head, and there's also a tag-team system in place to revive a character after they're killed off. It's a great time, but unsurprisingly difficult.
While it isn't unusual for retro collections to incorporate background materials on the game's history, it's pretty uncommon for a single game, in particular if it's a downloadable title. The game offers several pages of Lode Runner history, which really shows off how long this game has been around and how successful it's been. The trivia is particularly notable, after all, who knew that Lode Runner was the first-ever third-party game on the Nintendo Famicom? Not us.
A Level Editor is also included, although there's enough content included with the game that it almost seems like overkill. It's fairly easy to make your own level if you're the crafty type, but it might be a while until there's a good amount of community-generated stages to snag. It's certainly no LittleBigPlanet, but it's nice to see a game developer trying to give fans a way to continue breathing life into the game without resorting to charging for additional stage packs a few months down the road. Odds are you won't have much of a use for this feature unless you positively adore the game to the extent that it becomes your favorite. I suppose that might be possible.
Is it worth buying?
PROBABLY. But try the demo first, odds are you'll like it if you like older games. The gameplay is easy to pick up and a lot of fun, plus this is a rare old-school run-and-collect-things 2D fun-time jamboree. They don't make them like this anymore, and Tozai tends to take special care to make sure the graphics and sound not only fit the game, but seem totally in place with the tastes of modern gamers.
The entire package-- between the multiple modes, many stages, and level editor-- has plenty to keep you busy if you enjoy the gameplay. Unless you're a puzzle genius, the game will likely keep you busy in snippets for weeks. It's an enjoyable game for short or long sessions, and while I did not complete all the puzzles as of press time, I keep going back to play it just because it's a fun-- if frustrating-- time. Finishing this one will likely give you a real sense of accomplishment.
May 19, 2009