Lode Runner 25th Anniversary Edition Xbox Live Review

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You certainly feel old when you remember the original release of a game that is celebrating its 25th birthday, especially when it’s more of an obscure release than some of its peers. Back when it was originally released there was plenty of competition in the platforming genre, with a lot of games being much of a muchness, and if you wanted your game to stand out you needed something that no other game had. Lode Runner provided that with a level editor, one of the first games to do so, therefore assuring its place in gaming history.

There was another aspect to the game that made itself different from most other platformers, no jumping. Instead there was another method of reaching inaccessible platforms and avoiding your enemies, digging holes. You can’t just dig a hole anywhere as some platform sections are indestructible, and you can only dig to your sides, not directly underneath you. This adds a little strategy to the way you play the game, and is actually the basis for one of the game’s single player modes, a puzzle mode, which makes a nice change of pace from being chased round by robots in the other game modes. Apart from the digging holes and level editor though it is pretty standard fare for platform games of the time, avoid enemies, collect gold, escape the level, then repeat. It’s enjoyable enough for a while, but the levels start to feel very samey a lot quicker than they did in the eighties.

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Even then I personally never thought that much of Lode Runner when it was originally released. Sure it had hundreds of levels, the gameplay was OK, and the level editor made it a good community game, but it never really bit me the way other platformers did. And to be honest things haven’t changed much with this latest incarnation of the franchise. Despite sequels adding to the gameplay over the years, this version takes the game right back to its roots. Apart from some shiny new graphics, and a some multiplayer game modes it is exactly the same game as all those years ago. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Xbox Live Arcade is packed full of retro games and remakes, the grumble I have about it is the price. 1200 Microsoft points I feel is a bit steep, considering lots of retro games go for 800 or even 400 points.

However, the game does have a few things going for it, there is of course the level editor, which although takes a bit of getting used to adds a community element to the game. Then there’s the amount of content you start with, literally hundreds of levels, and to add some variety these have been split in to three different game modes. You can play the game as it was originally in ‘Journey’ mode, collect gold and avoid robots through level after level. Or if you fancy something a bit more hectic you can try ‘Hang On’ mode, which is more gold and more robots while collecting as much as you can with one life. Finally there is puzzle mode, which lets you stretch your grey matter a bit, giving you levels that can only be solved by a certain pattern of hole digging.

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Then there’s the multiplayer modes, which with one exception are just co-operative versions of the single player game. ‘Last Man Standing’ can be fun though, one player starts as a robot and has to tag other players, turning them into robots. It’s nothing ground breaking, but adds some fun to the game.

Lode Runner isn’t a bad game but personally it’s not my cup of tea. I can easily imagine other people loving it. It’s one of those Marmite games that you either love or hate. If you’re still unsure whether it’s worth spending that amount of Microsoft points, the best thing to do would be to go and download the trial game. It’ll probably give you a better idea of whether you’ll like it than anything I can say.

6/10

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Version tested: Xbox Live

Developer: Tozai Games & Southend Interactive

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Genre: platformer

Players: 1-4