Lode Runner
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10  |  Load Up On The Treasure That Is Lode Runner
Darryl B. , 5/17/2005 12:52:49 AM
Hearing the description of Lode Runner -- rather than playing it, or even seeing it down on paper -- sounds like a pretty warped idea (if not a monumental failure) for a video game. Sure, the idea of collecting as many gold bars as possible in a puzzle game sounds pretty inviting, but in order to disperse of the enemies that are after you, you thwart them by digging HOLES in the ground, of all things (not to mention you can fall from any height imaginable without being stunned, bruised, have any bones broken, or even dying, for that matter)? Sure boss, I'll get onto programming THAT idea right away! As soon as I close this deal on this bridge I'm selling to someone!

But no, Lode Runner was a severe, gold-plated (pardon the gold reference there) classic.

As if a story for a puzzle game mattered, some meanies have stolen all the gold from a peaceful people, and you must get it all back. There are gold bars scattered throughout a level, which you must scale ladders, avoid bad guys, climb over heights connected by ropes, and sometimes dig a hole for yourself to fall through parts of levels to escape. Gather all the gold in a level, and a new ladder will appear to lead to the next level.

However, this is far more difficult than it sounds. The bad guys are after you, which you can temporarily dig a hole behind (or ahead of) you to trap them in it if you need a few seconds to escape...if you need longer than that, dig two or three holes in rapid succession, and they should close up on the baddie before he has a chance to climb back out. (Don't ask me why the ground in this place self-seals; I guess environmentalists had long gotten pissed at the selling of laser diggers to Robin Hood types such as yourself, and made the grounds completely artificial or something.) Unfortunately, due to having no lawyers in the game to sue someone for causing them to fall, they're going to re-appear at the top of the screen somewhere and drop back down to resume their pursuit of you; drat.

Also adding to the complications are not realizing you're heading (or have fallen) into a trap until it's too late: sometimes you THINK you'll be safely running away from the evil beings...until you realize you're traveling over a section that can't be dug through, and then you're caught (and dead). Some levels have floors that LOOK solid, but then you can fall through sections of the floor and you can land on a bad guy. Some levels are comprised of nothing but ladders, so you can't dig any holes, and the evil beings can pick up the gold bars and travel with them for a while, so you have to wait until they're occasionally dropped before you can grab the last one to progress to another level. And a lot of the time you haven't dug enough holes in a certain situation and you'll still get caught, as the evil robbers will climb out of the hole and continue their (deathly) pursuit of you, etc., etc., etc.

Games like this that total far less than 200K are what gives modern gaming systems a black eye that have tons more memory, yet a lot of that memory is taken up by cinematics and all and can still be beatable in less than a week (like Halo 2). Lode Runner gives you 150 screens, which most players aren't going to bother trying to put aside a day (after they think they've mastered the thing) to see if they can get through it all (plus I don't think the game even has an ending), and if that wasn't *enough*, you can also create your OWN levels on top of that! So there's plenty of game here to last people a very long time, as Lode Runner's been brought back throughout the years before (this version I'm reviewing ran on an old 286 computer of mine) on more modern computers and in the arcade, as it was ported around to pretty much every computer back then, such as the IBMs, Apple, Atari 8-bit machines, etc., etc., etc, as this game is addicting as hell, even without much sound, but the graphics weren't bad for back then, and the keyboard controls responded really well.

Sometimes more isn't always better (in regards to newer systems, I mean), especially in this case.

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