Just like the other download services, Xbox Live Arcade has played host to updates of some classic titles. Continuing this theme, and to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Lode Runner is given a timely resurrection.
Lode Runner was the brain child of Douglas E. Smith, and made its début at the height of the 1980`s Bedroom coding scene. A hybrid of platform and puzzler, the aim is to gather all the gold within a level while avoiding the enemies that chase you. The games relentless nature encourages quick and instinctive reactions from the player, with absolutely no time to stop and stare at the surroundings. Thankfully the scenery can be used to the players advantage with blocks that can be shot – if an enemy moves across them, this will temporarily trap them.
The initial levels are simple in layout, easing the player in gently. Each level (consisting of five within a stage) gradually increases in complexity, meaning plenty of retries will be required to figure out exactly how to reach the exit. Even then it can be a puzzle to solve how to trigger the avatar’s departure, providing an inquisitive mind with a thorough workout. When the levels eventually start to incorporate area warps that place the runner at the top or bottom of a level, away from their starting point, it can end up as a hilarious digital version of a classic Scooby-Doo style chase, replete with haphazard endings and gales of laughter for anyone with the controller in hand at the time.
The chase is sustained across 80 levels in single player; certainly generous considering their complexity. But Lode Runner has more up its sleeve. With a substantial Co-operative online mode for two players and a Multiplayer mode, as well as a fully functional level editor, there is certainly plenty of content to get to grips with.
But the real highlight when it comes to extras is the Puzzle mode. Essentially similar to the single player, these levels are shorn of enemies with only the player and a timer for company. Finding the exact combination that leads to the exit can be infuriating to start with; at least until that wonderful epiphany and the solution is found. Even if it’s normally the case that it’s been staring the player straight in the face all along. The continual race for better times provides a welcome pull and is nice to dip into now and again when the single player becomes too much of a strain.
Providing excellent value for money, Lode Runner is a fine example of how to do a downloadable title in style, and provides a fitting tribute to the series on its Silver anniversary.