The Bungeling Empire has stolen a huge cache of gold from its rightful owners, and your mission is to infiltrate its treasury and recapture it. This entails progressing through 150 screens of platforms, ladders and ropes.
The Empire has sent robotic guards down to protect the gold, and contact with any of these will cost you a life. Your method of escaping them is to press fire to dig a hole in their line of movement, thus causing them to fall in briefly, allowing you to move across the gap safely. Once all the gold has been collected, a ladder allowing you to move onto the next screen is added. Completing these screens often requires forward planning and precision.
This was one of the earliest games to include a level editor, allowing the creation of new level designs with no programming skill.
In the summer of 82, in a lonely computer lab at the University of Washington, Doug Smith sat mostly alone. It was Doug's job to man the computer lab incase anyone decided to use it, but summer was not the computer lab's busiest time. So to keep himself occupied, Doug decided to write a computer game with his copious free time. In that lonely computer lab over the summer Lode Runner was created.
Lode Runner's success can not be understated. Lode Runner was originally made for almost every possible system: Apple II, Commodore 64, VIC-20, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, NES, DOS and more, and later re-releases have found themselves on most systems since then. Chances are if you've been playing computer games for any length of time, you've played Lode Runner at one point. In its original run Lode Runner sold millions of copies. Not bad for a game that started as a summer project.
In Lode Runner you play the part of a treasure collecting hero with a burrowing laser. The object is the same on each of the 150 screens: collect all the treasure and escape to the highest ladder with your life. Yes, that's right, 150 levels of brick digging action. Each level requires planning and technique to beat. You can fall harmlessly through holes dug with your laser, but your enemies will be temporarily trapped and drop any treasure they are carrying if they are lured in.
While trapped in a hole you can safely walk over the heads of trapped enemies, but don't wait to long or they'll climb out and get you. In a short time dug holes will fill back in which means instant death for whoever is still inside. Occasionally you will need to dig a row of holes to give yourself room to dig another row so that you can get treasure that is buried several layers deep. Occasionally blocks that you see are not actually there and you'll find yourself falling through blocks at sometimes inopportune but occasionally lifesaving moments.
Pay attention to the levels you play. The boards were sometimes designed not so much with game play challenge in mind but ascetics. It's amusing at times while desperately dodging the enemies to stop and say, "Wait, the ladders on this level spell 'Lode Runner'!" (Level 44)
Perhaps the key to Lode Runner's success, however, was that it was one of the first mod-able games. Okay, not really mod-able, but it did come with a level editor allowing budding game developers make their own levels and share them with friends, as if the original 150 weren't enough. So popular was Lode Runner's level creating feature that it prompted a follow up "Championship Lode Runner" the very next year with only 50 levels, but the most challenging Lode Runner levels designed.
If this all seems too challenging, fear not. Lode Runner lets you modify the number of lives and even lets you skip levels. Doing so you will not get your name on the high score list, but at least you aren't restricted to the straight forward play thought, always wondering what level 106 looks like, because you can't get past level 15.
This game could best be called fast and furious puzzle solving. It's simple to learn, a challenge to master, and still has a lot to offer after you're done playing.
To describe Lode Runner as just another treasure-grabbing "action game" would be to undermine its ingenuity: suffice to say that it is arguably the world's first action game that combines puzzle elements successfully-- dexterity is required, yet at the same time your exit path (and holes to dig) must be carefully planned lest you get helplessly trapped. This game truly belongs in the rare breed of timeless classics that remain addictive no matter how old they are.
Mention this game to some old gamer (such as myself) and you'll notice a small, nostalgic smile on the face. Ah, the good old times...
Lode Runner is...great! You control your tiny little character on a pretty big screen and make your way to the treasure chest. Once you have it you gotta exit the level and advance. Easy? Yeah, right. Download this game and enjoy it for hours to come...wait, not hours - days, months, years!
People who downloaded Lode Runner have also downloaded:
Championship Lode Runner, Lode Runner: The Legend Returns, Lode Runner Online: The Mad Monks' Revenge, Lemmings, Lode Runner 2, Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Prince of Persia
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