|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tozai Games / SouthEnd Int.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 22, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Lode Runner is a revamped look at the classic arcade title that has been released on nearly every gaming platform in some form or another since its initial launch back in 1983. The game touts sharp graphics, frantic gameplay, and a multitude of game modes encompassing single-player, co-op, and competitive play. What's more, the fun will likely never end, as players are given an excellent, easy-to-use level editor and an even better way to share their work with the community at large.
Lode Runner is a simple arcade title that has found success for over 25 years. To mark the silver anniversary, Lode Runner has once again released, this time exclusively for the Xbox LIVE Arcade. Lode Runner has players take on the role of a greedy, risk-taking adventurer in search of his fortune across five unique environments. The object of the game is to clear each level by picking up every golden lode or relic and exiting through a newly-opened door, reaching a pop-up computer terminal, or finding a once-hidden pathway. The quicker this is done, the more bonus points you will be awarded. It sounds simple, but it is made difficult by the constant pursuit of guardians intent on your demise. The enemy A.I. is quite smart; you'll have to constantly be thinking how to best outsmart them, making Lode Runner both a test of your reflexes and your mental fortitude. The best way to describe gameplay in Lode Runner is to think of it as a mix between Mario Bros., Pac-Man, and Mappy (three amazing arcade titles in their own right).
In order to evade the baddies and avoid an untimely end, players will need to make use of their environment and limited capabilities. Employing the left analog stick, players will cruise around the game's levels using ladders, vines, and platforms to their advantage. Also, players can blast potholes into the ground with their hand cannons by pressing A or B (or LB/RB and LT/RT) in order to temporarily trap enemies. Finally, players can fall on the heads of attackers (or partners) and use their new found height to reach previously inaccessible areas or simply ride their enemy's fall down to an ideal platform. You'll notice I said "fall" rather than "hop" onto their heads. That's because there is no jumping in Lode Runner - that would make things too easy. Also, hand cannons can only be used to make holes in the ground - you'll never be able to use them directly against your foes.
Limiting abilities and the use of indirect combat lead to frantic, puzzling gameplay that is highly addictive and extremely challenging. Using only the left stick and two face buttons harkens back to the days of old, making the game accessible for all ages. That being said, Lode Runner is an extremely difficult game as you progress, requiring patience and skill to master. The only real point of consternation I found with the controls concerned the character's slow use of the hand cannons. Oftentimes, I would find myself getting nabbed by a baddie that should have fallen prey to my pothole, but my plan was foiled by the sluggish response of my weaponry. While this certainly doesn't break the game, it does slow the pacing down considerably and can be quite frustrating, especially when you're on a roll, racking up points and cruising though levels only to be thwarted by unresponsive controls..
The game's main mode of play is the single-player campaign known simply as Journey - an adventure that leads you through multiple environments. However, once the patterns of these levels are committed to memory, there isn't any challenge left, somewhat hindering the replayability of Journey mode. Thankfully, the game also sports a host of other single-player options, though they too eventually suffer the same fate. Nevertheless, an intriguing variation on the adventure is called Hang On. This mode has you running around, collecting gold, and avoiding ever-greater numbers of enemies. The goal of this mode is not to progress to the next level, but rather to survive long enough to set new records. Each phase has its own gold-collecting goals. Players that attain these goals will be awarded with bronze, silver, gold, and diamond ranks. Players can also take on 50 stages of mind-bending puzzles. The object in this mode is to get all the gold as quickly as you can. Sounds familiar, but the main difference is that there is only one way to solve the puzzle - one wrong move and you'll be trapped! Finally, as with the original Lode Runner, players have access to a user-friendly level editor, which allows you to create wholly original levels or doctor existing levels to your liking. What's more, sharing your creations with others is a snap. You'll simply host or join a lobby where players are sharing levels, and you'll be able to peruse and preview their lists and take what seems most interesting.
As fun as the single-player modes are, you can also play this game locally or online both cooperatively and competitively. Players can join up with friends either on the couch or via Xbox LIVE and play a Co-op Journey or Puzzle. Also, the competitive Lastman mode will have you and up to three other friends running for your lives, seeing who can last the longest. The players who get nabbed first will be converted to monsters and join in on the chase. Playing Lastman over LIVE will allow you to play in ranked matches which are tracked on the leaderboards. This game really does an excellent job of bringing players together and fomenting a sense of community. All players will have their stats tracked, and the high scores attained in single-player, co-op, and competitive matches will be constantly sent to the servers for bragging rights.