Producer: Software Projects
Memory Required: 48K
Retail Price: £5.95
Language: Machine code
You are a highly trained Galactic Commando deep in enemy territory. Power hungry leaders of the repressive Bungeling Empire have stolen a fortune in gold from the peace loving people, and you have just discovered their underground treasury. Your aim in life is to recover every single ingot.
So Software Projects describe this manic arcade game with over 150 different screens, and a customising facility for you to design your own screens and save them to tape.
In fact, what we have here is a mammoth 'Panic' style game where the traditional digging function is actually an important part of the overall strategy. The screens are made up of numerous variations on the theme of brick blocks, ladders and bars, with the gold stacked here and there, often in seemingly inaccessible places. The Bugeling agents swarm all over the place after you, with one disadvantage - they can't leap up large blocks - but then, neither can you. What you can do is dig holes for them to fall into, out of which they spring after a few seconds. You can dig holes to get at the inaccessible gold too, and the longest possible fall does not kill you off.
A nasty touch is that the holes heal themselves after a while, and as you can't jump out of them like the nasties, you get concretised in! This factor is important on screens where the gold is deeply buried under brick, as you can only dig a hole through a layer if there is more than one block missing on the layer above it. This means having to dig out several blocks length in order to have the room to dig downwards for three or four blocks. Meanwhile they are filling in above you and the nasties are leaping down on top of you.
Because of the huge number of screens, there are 75 on one side of the tape and 75 on the second side. Access to any playing screen is available - they don't expect you to wade through all of them to complete the game!
Control keys: user definable, preset are: Q/Z up/down, I/P left/right, N to dig holes
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Sinclair 2
Keyboard play: highly responsive
Use of colour: simple on the whole, but very good
Graphics: small, mean as hell and well animated
Sound: not much, but doesn't spoil the game
Skill levels: 1, but it seems to get more difficult as you go along
Lives: 4 to kick off with
Special features: you can design your own screens via the editor and save them to tape
Lode Runner is evidence that you don't need mega graphics to make a great game, just a good idea. All of the graphics in this game are small, one character size, and don't have all sorts of decoration. But the game is great fun to play. It has a high strategic element in determining the best way to get the goodies and escape. I found it both playable and addictive. the men, although smooth, moved nicely, running, Jumping, climbing and swinging in two commando style. An edit and save facility is provided so you can invent your own situations when you are fed up with the 150 screens already there.
A game to be dismissed, is a proabable first thought on seeing Lode Runner, because the graphics look small and old fashioned. But don't be misled. A closer examination reveals that the one character-sized men are beautifully animated and extremely characterful as well. This is another of those 'modern' arcade oldies given a new lease of life with clever thinking, which piles incident on top of incident until a completely new game emerges from it. Its simple game in playing concept, but difficult and challenging in execution. Fun and highly addictive, especially with so many screens to play, Lode Runner is a great game. Get it?
First impressions of this game is that it is going to be a crummy platform game, because the size of the characters is tiny. One then realises that each individual character, though only 8 pixels high, is quite detailed and fairly well animated, quite neat indeed. Screen layout is big, to say the least, mind you, it is an assault course. Usage of the screen space is excellent. While playing the game, it becomes apparent that collecting gold ingots isn't as easy as it seems. A considerable amount of forward planning is needed, especially on the higher screens when there seem to be hundreds of storm troopers after you - amazing! There is something, I don't quite know what it is, that attracted me to this game and I think it will have a long lasting appeal. Whilst you progress through the many screens, a useful item (known as spare lives) is incremented with every screen you clear, so that on level 5 you have 9 lives, and I can assure you, you really do need 9 lives. A much more complex game than first meets the eye, but usually these are the types that attract people into buying them, because they will have such a long lasting appeal. Another original idea that uses some previously tested graphics, it platforms.
ANOTHER ladders and levels game you cry, as you aim Lode Runner at the dustbin ready for the drop.
But, however, there is something extra which makes the game different from the rest. Once you have run up the ladders, swung from poles and picked up gold bricks while dropping the enemy into freshly dug holes, you can switch to Edit mode and change the positions of all moveable objects on any of the 150 screens. You can even switch levels around so that, for instance, level one could become level four at the touch of a key.
Redesigning a screen is as simple as moving a cursor. You first select the object which you want to deposit on the screen. It can be a gold bar, or even yourself. Moving the drop cursor and pressing the fire button will put it on to the new set up.
As for the rest of the game, you might just as well forget about it. The user definition is the most exciting aspect of it and anyone who can work their way through 150 screens of matchstick heroes deserves a prize for perseverance.
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair
OK, SO Software Projects only had a few months to come up with a 128 title but why pick Lode Runner? And why make so few alterations?
When I'd loaded the game I expected a melodious tune to waft from the television speaker and hundreds of very different rooms in this levels and ladders game. Instead the only sounds are bleeps and squeaks - admittedly using the 128's three-voice capability - and 150 rooms full of red brick, yellow ladders and gold blocks.
For those of you who don't know how to play - the plot is four-years old - here's the story. You are a highly trained Galactic commando who has ventured into enemy territory. You are after the gold which the power-hungry leaders of a repressive Empire have stolen.
The only way you can stop the magenta monsters is by drilling a hole in the ground. Then you can stamp on their heads using them as bridges over those holes.
Once you've cleared the gold bricks from one level a ladder extends off the screen and you can escape to the next. The final screen is the most artistic, though it is the easiest to complete. You'll probably never get there, however, unless you use the screen editing facilities.
The screen editor allows you to change and produce user-defined screens and save them to tape. The game can be made easier or more difficult, depending on the ladder and level system you set up.
It is also possible to try the new set ups you have made by going into the editor menu and typing in the number of the screen you want.
The only reason for bringing out this 128 game is to be included in the list of companies with products available for the machine. There is no music in the game and only minimal sound effects - which occur if you are killed by an alien or if you pick up a gold brick.
If you forget about the abysmal plot, substandard graphics, lack of music and predictability of each screen you could say that the game is addictive. Yes, you could, but I'm not.
Publisher: Software Projects
MACHINE: Spectrum/joystick or keyboard
SUPPLIER: Software Projects
It seems only right that the company who brought you the all time classic English platform game in the shape of Manic Miner should now be bringing you the all time classic American platform game - Lode Runner.
Ignore the graphics - they can't described as the best ever on the Spectrum - just play the game!
The scenario goes like this. You are a highly trained galactic commando on a mission to recover a fortune in gold from a power hungry bunch of empire builders. The gold is hidden in an underground treasury packed with mysterious passageways designed to baffle would-be raiders.
You are armed with a laser-drill which blasts through walls - but you'll need more than brute strength and speed to work out the many ways to the bullion.
If you enjoy platform games then this is the game for you. The puzzling screens - there are 150 of them - will keep you guessing for quite a time. And once you've worked them out you can start designing your own and save them to tape using the games neat user-definable feature.
Lode Runner rightly has a great reputation as a quality game - and this Spectrum version is no exception.
MACHINE: Spectrum 48K
CONTROL: Keys, Kemp
FROM: Software Projects, £9.95
This title was a big hit some time back in America and Software Projects have been trumpeting their release of it in Britain as a Major Event, guys.
In essence it's very similar to Space Panic. You run round a network of ladders and platforms collecting gold nuggets and steering clear of a gang of chasing men. You can dig traps for them to fall into at a touch of a fire button, but unlike Space Panic you can't then have the satisfaction of stamping them out of existence. You simply secure yourself a few moments' reprieve.
What Lode Runner does have are a few extra features such as invisible trap doors - and more importantly 150 different screens, although the Spectrum can only hold 75 at a time (the rest are on the other side of the tape).
The program also allows you to design your own screens (although it doesn't tell you how!) and to switch the order of existing screens, a considerable boon when you're bored with the first half-dozen.
The graphics are very ordinary, with tiny, single-character size men chasing each other round. But this has compensations in that individual screens can be made far more complex.
My one gripe with the game is that there isn't enough variety. Once you've solved a few screens, the rest don't have much new to offer.
On the other hand the vast size of the game can give you motivation enough to keep tackling screens. Knock off two an evening and the game will still take 11 weeks to complete!
The play is by no means easy. It's easy to get trapped, and the large number of gold nuggets on some screens take a lot of collecting.
I've never seen the Commodore 64 versions, so I can't compare them, but I suspect it's even better - Ariolasoft are releasing it in this country.
Meanwhile this Spectrum version will do very nicely, thank you.
The programmers at Software Projects tell me they haven't stopped playing in weeks.
This game is especially memorable because it has two features which are virtually unknown in the software industry. An immense, almost ridiculous, Software Protection Card which would be impossible to copy even for the most diligent pirate, and a very impressive customising facility.
The game itself is extremely addictive with a huge number of screens and some pleasant, if small, graphics. Your character runs about insanely and despite his matchstick construction he seems to possess a character all his own. Software Projects haven't gone overboard on the sound but given the other points of the game and the obvious memory limitations these would impose they can be forgiven for this relatively minor slip.
Lode Runner is another winner. Miss it at your peril.
One hundred and fifty screens has to be some sort of record for a platform game.
However, this all uses up valuable memory, which has necessitated a drop in the standard of graphics. The characters are small (although they move smoothly) and all the screens are made up from a few basic components. Sound too is restricted to the odd beep or squelch.
Despite this, the game is very good fun and each stage can be enjoyed in its own right. Manic Miner devotees will particularly enjoy being able to hurl their man from great heights without losing a life.
It is the sheer size of the program that is so impressive. Anyone who actually finishes all 150 screens with just five lives deserves a knighthood at the very least, while the rest of us mere mortals can enjoy what is a truly excellent game.
GAME TYPE: Arcade
If you thought the days of itsy-bitsy characters in games were long gone, you were wrong. If you thought tiny characters were a sign of a bad game you were even further from the truth. Lode Runner, from Software Projects, features several tiny characters running across the screen or, rather, running across 150 screens.
Your aim is to collect all the gold on one screen and then escape to the next screen. Your enemies, who chase you commando-style across the screen, aim to stop you. Their touch means instant death and, what is more, they have a nasty habit of picking up the gold you want to collect.
The basic idea behind the game is very familiar. Climb the ladders, collect the objects, avoid your enemies, and dig holes for them to fall into. Several points, though, differentiate it from a run-of-the-mill, seen-it-before game.
Firstly, there is the sheer number and variety of the screens. 75 on one side of the cassette, and a further 75 on the next. Each contains an ingenious and challenging combination of ladders to climb, poles to slide along and different types of flooring.
Secondly, there is the edit facility. This allows you to change any of the screens, adding ladders, poles, gold, enemies, or whatever you want, to change the whole atmosphere of the game. You can also move the screens around, place all the easy ones at the beginning, or the difficult ones where you can practise them.
The screens are ingenious and the game is fun. However, with excellent graphics proving to be one of the chief selling points of this year's games, and with the Digger theme almost done to death, it does not have the strong attraction of similar games, such as Chuckie Egg, released a year ago.
There is a justifiable awe of American software in this country with consistent scare stories being put about by the computer trade press that this particular software invasion will do for British companies what a cruise missile would do for Minsk.
This is a Broderbund game under license and Broderbund brought us the memorable Choplifter on the Apple II and in various forms for other home computers.
Sadly, this is unlikely to set the world on fire. All of that blurb about being a highly trained Galactic Commando deep in enemy territory is not going to disguise the fact that this is just another platform game, albeit complex and with neatly executed graphics.
In the traditional way, you climb ladders, grab gold, swing on ropes - nice touch, this - and dig holes to get rid of your assailants. Later screens involve you in passage-way mazes and necessitate a certain amount of drilling with your laser pistol. The real strength of this game is that, like Beyond's Mr Robot, it is also a game generator. You can stick in loads of ladders, floors, trap doors, gold bars and enemies as you like.
So, while not being part of the striking graphics trend, this game may well turn out to appeal to a new market for "kit" computer games.
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