GameOver Game Reviews

Game & Publisher Lode Runner 2 (c) GT Interactive
Overall Rating 56%

Divider Left By: DToxR Divider Right

Before PII's, before the Nintendo, before the Spice Girls, there was the Lode Runner. Originally written on the University of Washington's VAX 1, it had to be disguised as a utility called 'graph' to get around the school's strict anti-gaming policy. By using proven concepts from some of the golden classics like the Donkey Kong series(it was actually called "kong" in its early stages), Lode Runner successfully mixed elements of problem solving with pure arcade style fast action. The object of the game was deceptively simple: collect all of the treasure while avoiding the enemy "mad monks". Easy right?

Enter the world of 3-D. Following the trend of remaking the oldies in 3-D, it seemed only natural that Lode Runner would get the same treatment sooner or later. The problem is, 3-D works well for some games, while making others confusing and hard to follow. Could Lode Runner make the transition and still keep all the integral elements that made it such a great game in the first place? Well boys and girls, strap yourselves in because you're about to find out...

After "loding" the game (heheh, I'm evil) you will find yourself in a standard issue menu system. From here you can access the various functions such as naming your Lode Runner and choosing your gender (yes there are male and female Lode Runners now - how politically correct!), select a level, load a savegame, and enter the control customization menu. One minor complaint about the user interface is the "cute" icons and check boxes with mystery functions that leave you clicking madly on the screen trying to figure out which happy face button starts a multiplayer game. Some tool tips or a similar popup type description would have helped immensely or at the very least, plain labelled buttons. Once you do manage to figure out what happy face gets you into the level select menu (sic) you will find you are able to choose from 5 different worlds (read : groups of levels with a common theme) such as jungle world, wacky world and gear world as well as a tutorial to help you get the hang of the game.

The first thing that is blatantly obvious as you jump into the action is the overhauled graphics. At 640x480, the visuals are sharp and colourful throughout. The backgrounds are a sort of tiled abstract wallpaper that don't distract you from the puzzle but I wish some more time had been spent on higher quality backgrounds. You control the action from a 3-D isometric view which gives you a good view of all the obstacles ahead. Scattered around the levels you will find treasure, enemy monks, bombs, and various other powerups. The thinking part of the game comes in to play as you try to figure out how to reach all of the treasure while not wasting precious bombs in the wrong places. This involves memorizing enemy patterns in order to time an attack or slip by and avoid confrontation altogether.

The standard tools you are equipped with are your brain(hopefully you have one) and a handy vapourizer that allows you to temporarily disintegrate or dig out the block of land ahead of you. This comes into play when you find yourself running from a mad monk; you can dig a hole and watch him fall helplessly into it. Anyone unfortunate enough to be stuck in a hole (including yourself if you aren't careful) is crushed to death as the block regenerates around them after a few seconds. Oh what fun! You can also pull this off during multiplayer - foil an enemy's primed bomb attack by digging out the ground under the bomb so it falls into the ground and detonates uselessly. The bombs themselves are very "bomberman-esque" in the sense that they have a very specific blast path; some blow up vertically and you can stand right beside them as they blow without getting hurt while others blast along the ground in a "+" pattern, leaving anyone above or below the explosion unscathed. They also work on a timed fuse just as in bomberman, so when you drop a bomb, run like hell or within seconds you will be part of the scenery. Other powerups in the game include temporary invisibility, land mines, and a beachball that gives you "the touch of death" where any opponents you come into contact with die horribly. These powerups seem to be more of a novelty item than anything else although I wish they would have been more generous with them when they designed the multiplayer levels - they are out of the way and not frequent enough to be a real factor.

Sound seems to be fairly minimal. There is nothing that particularly stands out about any of the effects which you can look at as a good thing in that you won't find yourself distracted by annoying bleeps that make you want to rip out your speaker cable. I think some death screams would have been a great sound effect especially when a Lode Runner plummets through a hole into the void. Both sound and music volumes can be controlled from the in-game menu as you would expect.

By far the biggest problem with Lode Runner 2 is the control. It all boils down to the fact that your Lode Runner never does what he is told to - at least not on the first try. This tends to be a real problem in a game where timing is so critical. The poor control seems even stranger when you look at the configuration options for controllers. It really looks like some time and thought was put into controller options. You can customize every imaginable button and direction even to the point of being able to use two controllers to direct one Lode Runner. Unfortunately none of this solves the root of the problem:

No matter what configuration you select, control is AWFUL.

The game defaults to using the diagonal axis on your joystick to move up/down/left/right on the map. I re-mapped this to use straight up and down axis since they seem to be much more responsive than the diagonals on any joystick or gamepad i've ever used. I then held the joystick on an angle to match the isometric view on screen. This was the best compromise I could come up with. It seemed to raise the level of control from "gad I want to tear my eyes out with a dull spoon this control is so bad" to "If I sing to myself so I don't think of the crappy control, I guess I can manage this".

Lode Runner 2 includes all of the standard multiplayer options we have come to expect. You can choose from deathmatch or co-operative modes as well as selecting maps and other options such as powerup respawn and number of Lode Runner lives per player. I found the multiplayer action to be somewhat unfinished. It lacks continuity between levels as opposed to a game like bomberman or lemmings where the level progression is clear to the point of being automatic. Having said that, the head to head gaming is fast and furious (after all the players have had their mandatory 3 minute rant about the awful control) and it's really a lot of fun to play - the ingredients that made Lode Runner such a classic are still there.

This game left me with mixed feelings. I really wanted to like the game but you just can't get past the awful control. There is even an official level editor included with the game which will keep the die-hard Lode Runner fans going for some time. I don't know if the game control is something that could be fixed with a patch, but if it's at all possible, I urge Presage to do it. It will make the difference between a lackluster sequel and a fantastic followup.

Highs: sharp, colourful graphics, level editor included, 5 different worlds for variety between levels

Lows: control, control, control.

Graphics: 17/20
Sound: 11/15
GamePlay: 13/30
Fun Factor: 15/20
Multiplayer: 4/5
Overall Impression: 7/10


Divider Left By: Cruze Divider Right

As soon as I saw this title I was intrigued. Being from the old school I remembered wasting endless hour on the original Lode Runner from, the then, Broderbund Software and was kind of excited at the thought of taking another crack at it. Published through GT Interactive (Who have brought us some decent games in the past) and developed by Presage, I took a quick peek through their sites for the 'dirt' on Lode Runner 2. Well call me silly, but Between GT Interactive AND Presage, I could barely find one scrap of information on the game. Presage said they developed it for GT and more info could be found there but besides the one pager in the on-line sales area... I don't think so.

Anyone who played the original Lode Runner remembers the general concept of a maze and you having to collect the gold bars on the screen while avoiding the baddies. Climbing up and down ladders, running back and forth, disintegrating walls temporarily to trap your pursuers, it was a blast. (Hey give me a break this was back in the days when Pac-Man was in his glory okay.) I had high hopes that GT (the Producers of Unreal and such) could do great things with the old plot and a new 3d engine. LR2 is dubbed as an arcade type game which I am not a huge fan of, but it includes a level editor and multiplayer support so I continued with an open mind. According to the sales info, I was to be 'Hunted by hooded foes at every turn' ... 'Pushing the limits of gaming stamina' and 'Prepared for cerebral overload!' The minimum requirements for the game are a P90 with 16 megs of RAM and a 2x CD-rom which gave me cause for concern at their great expectations for impressing me.

Undaunted by these initial fears, I loaded up the game and waded in blind. After taking the obvious precaution of putting a cerebral rev limiter on my cortex, I pressed start and waited to be blown away. The initial screen came up and I stared intently.. What was it.. and more importantly where was I? After pushing sevrral keys in hopes of generating some kind of re-action from the game so as to tell me what I was supposed to do, the spacebar finally rescued me by producing a tiny little man in the center of the screen. I appeared to be on tiny walkways (everything was tiny in this game and at times annoyingly hard to discern) which were made of cubes and led in various directions. I walked about, gingerly at first in fear of the cerebral overload, expecting at any moment to be attacked by the 'hooded foes', but alas it was all in vain. I stumbled around on these unsuspended walkways with nothing but void around them for 10 minutes or so looking for some baddies to waste or some gold to collect and was rewarded with some little green balls. (Which I assume are good because I didn't die when I collected them) Other than that I found nothing until I accidentally walked into a phone booth looking cube and was teleported to the next level. I guess by now you get the idea that I was not overly impressed with LR2. Maybe it was because I had played it so many years ago and was expecting more, or maybe it was just because I wasn't having any fun, but the game definitely did not live up to it's afore-mentioned promises.

Graphics: 12/20

The game plays from a 3rd person top down perspective much like the old syndicate wars look, but from a greater distance. (Like about 3x farther away) The graphics were quite sharp (16 bit video required according to the box) and quite colourful, but you really had to get into the game to appreciate some of the bizarre settings they put you in. GT Interactive calls it a 'State-of-the-art isometric 3D engine' and in-as-much as you could climb up and down ladders and walk around objects I guess it was that. I can't really slam the graphics because they were decent, just not stunning or grabbing like one might expect from the current genre of games where 3Dfx is the standard fare. (3Dfx was quite obviously not supported here by the way) The ambient animations were neat and well done, but very repetitive and thusly lost their attraction after a time. In an arcade game, which is what Lode Runner 2 really is, I suppose the graphics are okay, but not for today's PC market driven by the constant demand for 'bigger and better'.

Sound: 7/15

Boinks, beeps, and zaps were quite prevelent throughout LR2 as your little character blunders around into invisible walls, down false floors and into various unknown objects that seemed to be placed there just to trip you up. No voices to speak of, not much of any other sounds really, although I did find it quite relieving to press the self-destruct key every once in a while and enjoy the successive explosion of my Lode Runner counterpart.

Gameplay: 11/30

I may be sticking my neck out here, but I just couldn't get into the game. You are offered a choice of either male or female characters, but I couldn't tell the diference between them. (Possibly that was the intent to placate the equality mongers, I am not sure.) You can change the colour of your lode runner's outfit to one of 8 available from the menu if you so desire. I spent a good half hour running around from level to level collecting the numerous round golf-balls (which are actually golden eggs which I later discovered; thus fitting in with the gold bar scenario of the first Lode Runner game), just wishing for a place to shoot them or throw them or even bowl them. Alas I could not find it. There are 165 levels set in 5 distinctly different worlds or themes really. Some are completely wacky, one is industrial, but all in all it doesn't affect gameplay one bit from world to world. I found the complete lack of any goals, missions or guidelines a little hard to swallow and feel somewhat sorry for the poor little runner dude condemed for all eternity to do nothing other than flit through the worlds gathering his golden-eggs. (I still say they look like golfballs)

Fun Factor: 8/20

What can I say, except that it's just plain repetitive. Yes there are 165 levels, but they don't change or randomize, you can scroll through them from the menu so you aren't driven to complete any one of them. The baddies (what few of them there are) are in exactly the same place and follow exactly the same movements every time. Something I did find fun though and a little redeeming was the way your foes dealt with you when they eventually got their hands on you. It was hard to see the first few times because everything is so tiny, (have I mentioned yet that everything was quite tiny) but I am quite convinced that they absolutely cleave my runner in half with a samurai sword. Thank goodness for 5 lives.

Multiplayer: 2/5

It's there, but only in the form of TCP/IP. I guess that's not horrid considering that 90%+ of games are multi'd across the net. Some additional connections via modem, direct cable or IPX would have been nice maybe.

Overall Impression: 5/10

Lode Runner 2 is an arcade game, plain and simple. It is going to appeal to a very small audience that tends to enjoy repetition and simplicity. It does include a level designer which allows you to go to town with your own ideas for worlds etc... All in all it isn't a terrible arcade game, but somewhat dated considering today's entertainment options and would have done better had it been released ... well maybe pre-pentium. Bottom-line: unless you are one of the afore-mentioned small audience that enjoys repetition, you might want to leave this one on the shelf. As for the poor little lode runner dude... May he rest in peace ;)


Click here to post comments about this review on our message board! (Be sure to register first)

Screen Shots
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot
Screen Shot

Back to home