Lode Runner Review

Lode Runner is a game that's managed to avoid the retro arcade craze for a while, probably because it began as an early computer game and only later made a rare and brief appearance in arcades. I'm not sure how many old-school gamers are out there who loved what was probably one of the first platform games ever and remember it fondly enough to want to buy this version without a second thought, so I'm going to put all that history aside and simply look at Lode Runner as I would any other arcade game - and as any other arcade game it has its good points and its bad points.

First off, let's have a look at the game play. As I noted, the game is a platformer but with one important difference you can't jump. I don't know if this was by design or because the game came out before the jump was even invented yet, but you're stuck with climbing ladders and dropping off of ledges. Oh, and blasting. The game's unique mechanic is that you have a blaster that can take out some, but not all, of the blocks that make up the platforms. Shoot a block and you can drop through the gap to the level below, or, if you're pursued by one of the various monsters that roam the levels and serve as the heavies you can knock out a block and temporarily trap your pursuer while you run unharmed across its head. You can't fire these blasters every which way, though. You're limiter to a left or right shot, and then only at the block immediately to your left or right. And the object of this climbing, dropping, and monster-head-walking? Why gold, of course. Each level has a number of gold nuggets and it's your goal to collect all of the nuggets. Collect them all and you complete the level, and are rewarded with the next level and more gold to collect.

The good thing about Lode Runner (besides the fact that the graphics have been nicely spruced-up over their original Atari 2600 style blockiness) is that each level needs to be approached like a puzzle. There is definitely a right way to approach each puzzle, and in some cases there's only one way to do it. You can't sit back and think your way through each new level, though, as the aforementioned monsters would be happy to kill you while you ponder your strategy. So it's a puzzle, there's some pressure, and you need to have relatively quick reflexes, all pretty good things in my book in a downloadable arcade game. Well, now for the downsides...

The first thing you'll discover about the game is that it's not very forgiving. If you get killed by a monster or take too long to go through the gap left by a blasted rock and are squished, it's back to the beginning. The level essentially resets itself, and even if you had one last gold nugget to collect you'll have to do everything all over again. It's also possible for you to get stuck and be forced to reset the level yourself. If you don't pass through a level in the right way, you may find yourself caught in a section of the level with no way out. There's just about no way to get through the game's levels without numerous restarts and this can easily lead to frustration for many people. This is not a kid's platform game and younger gamers will quickly grow tired of losing and move on.