Lode Runner Legacy

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Tozai Games
Release Date: July 13, 2017


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PC Review - 'Lode Runner Legacy'

by Cody Medellin on Sept. 25, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Lode Runner Legacy is the latest edition in the classic action/puzzle series, where you control “Runner” in order to recover stolen gold while avoiding enemies and minefields.

Buy Lode Runner Legacy

The original Lode Runner came out on the Apple II PC about 34 years ago, and it was a huge hit. The subsequent years saw the game being released for a number of platforms in several different countries, each one of them iterating slightly on the original formula but being big hits in their own right. What's surprising is that the recent five-year gap between the mobile release and this PC version, Lode Runner Legacy, represents the longest amount of time between new entries in the series.

Those who have played the original game will have no trouble getting into this one, as the mechanics are exactly the same. The goal of each stage is to obtain all of the artifacts to open the exit ladder and escape. Unlike many video game heroes, you can't jump or clamber up a floor that's not at your level. You can climb ladders, shimmy across pipes and stand on the heads of enemies. Your signature ability is to dig holes, but you can only do so directly to the left or right of where you're standing, and you can't dig higher than yourself. Digging allows you to drop to a lower floor and trap enemies coming at you. You can't bury them, but you can walk on top of them, and they will dig themselves out of the hole. If they fail to do so in time, they'll die but quickly respawn in a different part of the map to torment you again.

The formula is simple, but it works well thanks to the level design. The level layout and your restricted abilities create plenty of scenarios where you can mess up and get stuck. The introduction of new enemies might change your approach in a few stages, but it also means that their quirky behavior is the key to solving puzzles. The solutions to the puzzles can be very tricky, and while the game follows the design philosophy of giving you a few easy puzzles to whet your appetite before giving you the difficult stuff, that difficulty ramp is steep, and you must be very observant to succeed.

While the gameplay mechanics are largely the same as the original game from the 1980s, there is one significant change: the life system. Instead of giving you a cache of lives to burn through, you're given an infinite supply. When you consider that the game still follows the original philosophy of retaining your progress after every death, it can feel like you're sometimes taking a shortcut since some stages have you respawn with easier access to the escape ladder. The game tries to combat the temptation to die often with a significant reduction to your bonus multiplier upon each demise.

Lode Runner Legacy almost pressures you into thinking and acting fast instead of letting you take the time to come up with a solution. You have a 10,000-point bonus that drops for every second that passes. Your multiplier starts at 3.0 but depletes after each death and if you take too much time on a stage. While there may be an obvious route to clear all of the treasures, the presence of a special glowing treasure that grants a big 24,000-point bonus if picked up first will tempt players to come up with a more convoluted plan for the stage. In a way, this change to aiming for high scores makes the game exciting and frustrating, since it means you'll want to restart the stage every time you make a mistake, disavowing earlier progress for a one-run high score. When you consider that each stage comes with its own leaderboard, that's a lot of restarting.

All of the gameplay is bathed in a presentation that is both modern and charming. The graphics are done in voxels, and the character designs are reminiscent of games like 3D Dot Game Heroes, which emulate a pixel look. The rest of the backgrounds aren't that impressive, since there's not much going on, but there's something to be said for simplicity being more attractive than a full-on graphical assault.

The only negative of the presentation is that it can sometimes prevent you from digging holes. The holes you dig up are of a certain size, so the game only has a set number of spots where the perfect hole can be dug. Unlike the original game, though, your movement is more fluid, so you won't always move into an eligible spot with just one step. The game slightly discolors the blocks that are eligible for digging, but sometimes, you'll be standing on one voxel that prevents the dig from taking place. This can be frustrating in the heat of a chase. The only other negative aspect is that the developers gave you an alternate camera angle to show off their handiwork. However, the first-person camera doesn't give the game first-person controls, so the option is useless.

For those worried about content, the game is packed with levels and modes. The main campaign comes with 50 stages, while the puzzle mode comes with 50 more stages. The game also adds a classic mode, which throws in 150 of the original stages from the Broderbund classic but with the new voxels and particle effects. As if 250 stages weren't enough, Lode Runner Legacy also grants immediate access to levels created by other players. Judging by the amount of stages out in the wild, there's a ton of content to sift through.

Speaking of which, the game comes with a level creator that's easy to work with when using a mouse, and it's pretty decent when using a controller. All of the tools necessary for making levels are at your disposal, and it won't take much time before you can whip up something imaginative. Those who want more freedom in their creations can create the collectibles and characters to replace your hero or some of the villains. You're only replacing the appearance, so the mechanics remain the same, but you have a lot of freedom. The only thing missing is the ability to use those custom characters outside of your own levels, so you have to play as the default hero until you make your own levels.

Overall, Lode Runner Legacy is both a great game and a very good tribute to the 34-year-old original title. The classic gameplay holds up today, with a bevy of old and new levels to demonstrate that. It comes with a look that mimics a few other titles but it's nice to look at. Most importantly, there's more than enough content here to keep fans busy for a long time. Unless you hate platform puzzle games, Lode Runner Legacy is an easy game to recommend.

Score: 8.5/10

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