GDC 2009: Lode Runner Hands-On

Platforming has come a long way since the Amiga days.

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Remakes of classics are in, and they all seem to be bounding toward the Xbox Live Arcade library, wherein players who were conscious in the '80s can relive some of their favorite gaming moments. We had an opportunity to check out Lode Runner at CES, but a more complete version was on display at the 2009 Game Developers Conference, where we got to play the game and learn about the new level editor.

Lookin' good with updated graphics. Hurray for 3D models.
Lookin' good with updated graphics. Hurray for 3D models.

The details of the level editor can't be revealed until later, but the fact that one exists means that there will be a never-ending collection of levels to play through. Lode Runner wasn't exactly easy, based on what we played. Despite our embarrassing display at the kiosk, the game was surprisingly a lot of fun. The simple premise has stayed intact: Your goal is to nab as much gold as possible, avoiding enemies and making it to the exit. It sounds easy, but the lack of a jump button will torture you until you get over the fact that you can only shoot diagonally downward to your left and right.

Climbing ladders and pulling yourself across vines are your only options when navigating the single-screen level. Blocks that are cracked can be blasted, but they'll reappear within a few seconds, so you need to think quickly and act even faster. There is a Puzzle mode in which you need to use your limited abilities to figure out how to get to the exit, as well as Journey mode, in which your adventure is hindered by quick-thinking, robe-clad goons that are out to get you. Thankfully, the game supports two players in these modes, so as long as one of you stays alive, you won't have to start over. Another incredibly fun mode is the Last Man, in which you can play with up to four players. This hectic mode is really about the last person standing. It's frantic and crazy, and it's funny to see how many ways you can screw over everyone else so that you can stay alive for a few more seconds.

There are going to be roughly 300 levels if you combine all of the stages across all modes in Lode Runner when it launches. We'll update you with more information once it becomes available. The game is currently scheduled to be released sometime at the end of April on XBLA.

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