Review: Lode Runner (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Lode Runner
Genre: Puzzle/Platformer
Developer: Southend Interactive
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: 4/22/09

Just as a disclaimer of sorts, we here at Diehard GameFAN are fans of old school gaming. When the latest visual HD masterpiece comes out, most of us would be just fine playing an 8-bit classic instead. Sometimes we get the best of both worlds when someone comes along and reboots a classic game with modern graphics. Just like Lode Runner for Xbox Live Arcade.

It’s been 25 years since the conception of the sometimes infuriating but always addictive puzzle/platformer. I wonder if back then Douglas E. Smith realized his digital progeny would reach the success that it has. One of the first 3rd party titles to sell as well as a first party title. Lode Runner has seen many iterations of the years and has been on numerous systems. It’s a bonafide classic.

The XBLA game does the classic justice, so there shouldn’t be any doubt to how this game is going to score.

Southend Interactive re-envisioned the game for Xbox Live Arcade, and this week the game becomes one of Xbox Live Deals of the Week for Gold Members of Xbox Live. Instead of 1200 points, the game is now 800 points. Is it worth $10 of your virtual money? Read on.

The idea behind the game is that you are some greedy guy who wants to have all the gold. Now I know how Alex feels. He goes through different stages where there are gold nuggets are just laying around. He has to climb, swing and puzzle solve in order to collect these nuggets before different enemies catch up to him and kill him. It’s sort of a thinking man’s Pac-Man. Throughout the different stages there are obstacles in the way to blast through, and some have to be blasted through in a certain order, and some can be blasted open in order to get rid on an enemy that is following close behind you.

It’s a tense infuriating experience that is perfectly transferred over to the Xbox Live Arcade Game.

The game has received a graphical overhaul and while the camera is presented in 2D the graphics are presented in 3D. Everything looks smooth and is presented with a high amount of definition despite the simple style of gameplay. It’s really amazing when you compare this game to the original and see the graphical difference. The style they have chose to use for the Xbox Live Arcade game has added a little bit of character to the surroundings, and that’s appreciated. Everything is smooth even though it’s a 25 year old game you certainly will not notice that when it comes to the graphics.

The audio works with this style of game, though it doesn’t really get the kind of overhaul the graphics have received.

There are several modes to play through. There is the Journey mode, which provides 80 levels of pure old school gaming bliss. The game starts easy enough, but after you get through the initial levels it becomes a white knuckle battle for gold nuggets and survival. The levels themselves aren’t exactly long engaging affairs. They take up exactly one screen but figuring out what you need to do while avoiding the different enemies on the screen and trying to get the best time so that you can get the best score is can get amazingly difficult as the game goes on and is also super addictive.

Part of the addictive nature is the puzzle element to the game. You know that every level is possible to beat as soon as you can figure out how to get all of the gold. Except the hard part is figuring out how to get to the gold. Once you have that figured out then it becomes a battle to figure out how to do it in the fastest way possible. The challenge of the later levels also makes it completely satisfying to actually pass a level and progress.

There’s a practice mode, which is almost necessary for anyone who has never played Lode Runner. It’s essentially just a tutorial mode, but it can certainly be helpful to newcomers. There’s a Hang On mode, were the game challenges you to collect gold against an ever increasing amount of enemies. You have to try and stay alive and collect as much gold as possible, and while it starts off easy it becomes a difficult task pretty quickly. It’s a great, intense addition to the game.

There’s a puzzle mode that’s even more difficult and rewarding than the single player levels. Now remember I’m someone who enjoys the frustrating style of challenge some games throw at you. While I’m still trying to beat the final levels of Trials HD I love the game. The Puzzle mode of Lode Runner give me about the same feeling as Trials HD. Meaning at times I want to throw my controller at, or through, the nearest wall but I will keep trying because I know I can eventually pass the level. It’s an interesting variation of the game that certainly adds to the gameplay experience.

Aside form that there is a full level editor, however compared to other level editors I think the one in Lode Runner falls a bit short. You can indeed create your own levels with enough patience, but it isn’t exactly a user friendly experience. While it’s better than the system in Trials HD, it doesn’t measure up to the system available in FLOCK!. Honestly I think I mis-underestimated the creation system in FLOCK! if only because I haven’t seen a better system in any other game I’ve played. Lode Runner is no exception. You can choose to host your creations and share them either publicly or privately with people on your Friends List.

There’s also a full suite of multiplayer modes, however for this game I was unable to find anyone online to play with. The same problem exists for the level creation system. It sounds like a great way to make and share levels, but there aren’t anybody sharing levels online at the moment. At least not publicly. Hopefully the latest Deal of the Week will encourage people to buy the game and get the community active again (did I mention it will be 800 points for a week yet?).

Lode Runner on Xbox Live Arcade is a perfect fit. The game is simple to control and play, but the execution makes it a white knuckle difficult game experience that will give you flashbacks to the days when you might’ve played this game on a tabletop arcade in a bar. The simple and addictive gameplay holds up with thanks to the dedication of Southend Interactive and the additions they’ve made to the overall game. $10 or 800 points is the perfect price point for this experience.

The Scores
Modes: Great
Graphics: Good
Audio: Good
Gameplay: Classic
Replayability: Classic
Balance: Classic
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Classic
Final Score: Great Game

Short Attention Span Summary:
Lode Runner is and always will be a classic. The reboot of the game on Xbox Live Arcade is great version of the title with redone graphics and a tone of modes to keep you coming back for more. If you are interested at all in the title the weekly deal is the time to jump on what is a fun Xbox Live Arcade title.

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