Review: Lode Runner Classic (Xbox Live)
When Lode Runner Classic showed up in the Xbox Live titles last week, I made sure I was at the top of the AAWP list to review the classic platform game. First released back in 1983, this is a title that found success throughout the years and I couldn't wait to get this on Windows Phone. I wish I had resisted.
Version Reviewed: 22.214.171.124
This is classic Lode Runner - you run around a maze (side on view) in a world of platforms, ladders, and zip lines for you to navigate. Your goal is to grab all the gold on the level, at which point a ladder will extend upwards to the next level. All you need to do is avoid the enemy runners in the level who will kill you with a single touch. This makes it all sound very simple - and in a way Lode Runner is. But there is a complexity to the game that you only understand when you play a great version of the title.
The important thing, at least for me, is that any Lode Runner game has the 150 classic levels that were bundled with the original game. I know there was a level editor back in the 80's, and while this early experiment in user generated content kept Lode Runner attractive, the 150 gems of gold collecting are like old friends to me.
Admittedly they are old friends that I've forgotten how to solve, so it's still going to take a bit of experimentation (and luck) to collect all the gold on each level before escaping off the ladder that reaches into the sky. These are levels that have stood the test of time, and you will enjoy and hate them in equal measure.
Mostly because there's one thing that you will hate more than the level design, and that's the control system.
Lode Runner comes from a world where the home computer keyboard controls of QAOP (or ZXML if you were a Spectrum fan) were hard coded into the hands of teenagers. If you were very lucky, you had a joystick to go with it (and it literally was 'a stick'). But they were digital controls, with direct input and haptic feedback. Something that a Windows Phone touchscreen cannot replicate.
There are games where I can get by with a virtual D-pad on the screen, but unfortunately Lode Runner Classic is not one of them. I cannot get the hang of the "fluid" movement required in this return to the 8-Bit adventure where Up-Down-Left-Right is the entire range of movement. I was constantly overcompensating and missing turns, or simply standing still because I hadn't moved from 'up' to 'left' on the virtual pad in sufficient time.
Lode Runner levels require split second timing - timing that I was unable to achieve in this title.
There is an alternative control system, where the entire screen is used as the D-Pad, so touching the top of the screen is an up movement, you move left and right by tapping and holding the left and right sides of the screen... and in that respect it kind of works. But you need to be rather dexterous to pull this off, and it helps if you can see through your hands because you cover so much of the screen you have to guess where the enemies runners are.
Put simply, Lode Runner Classic doesn't work.
All the elements are there, from the original levels and challenges, to the Xbox Live Achievements and connected High Score tables. I could talk about the authentic sound, crisp graphics, and how the graphics replicate the 8-bit look but are smooth and fluid when required.
But all that is immaterial if it's not enjoyable to play. And it's not. That's all you need to know.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at