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Lode Runner should be instantly familiar to anyone who spent much time on computers during the '80s. Originally released in 1983, it focuses on the adventures of a lone stick figure out to get rich while evading sinister guards. Lode Runner Classic offers up a faithful, mostly unchanged port of the 30-year-old original — but while the game itself is still mostly fantastic, the iOS shell that's been built around it leaves something to be desired.
Lode Runner's setup is deceptively simple; in each single-screen level, yor intrepid stick-man tries to collect all the gold bars while being pursued relentlessly by a group of red-shirted guards. His abilities include climbing ladders, shimmying across horizontal bars, and – most importantly – digging holes that can be used both to tunnel through levels and to temporarily trap guards. The catch is that you can't dig straight down, and if you fall in a 1-by-1 hole, you'll most likely get stuck (unless there's nothing under it) and eventually die when it fills itself back in.
Lode Runner comes with a whopping 150 levels, only a few of which are designed to be beaten quickly, and many of which require entirely unique strategies to get through. Collecting all the gold bars and escaping takes a mixture of careful planning, experimentation, and fast reflexes — and with the guards continually closing in, getting all three down can be awfully tough.
Making things even tougher, however, are Lode Runner Classic's controls. The game offers three options: D-pad, Touch, and Accelerometer. The first adds a set of console-style controls that take up about a third of the screen, squishing the action into a tiny window. (This works surprisingly well on an iPad with the game blown up to 2x size, but on an iPhone or iPod touch, it's annoying.) Touch gives over the entire screen to the action, but moves the directional controls to the edges of the screen — which would be fine, except that you have to move your finger to the top (and hold it there, obscuring the game) if you want to climb a ladder. This is confusing, but less confusing than Accelerometer, which lets you tilt the iPhone to move and makes the accuracy the game demands a lot harder to nail down.
It also doesn't help that the game doesn't "flip" if you turn your iOS device over. The game orients itself so that your left hand covers the audio jack, making the controls even more awkward if you're using headphones.
Control problems aside, the Classic version adds a few interesting extras, including an optional fisheye-lens effect that can magnify the area around your stick-man (but doesn't work with D-pad controls, unfortunately), adjustable game speed, a Time Attack mode that gauges your success by how quickly you can get through each level, and leaderboards and achievements for the truly dedicated. Sadly, there's no sign of the original's level editor, which was one of Lode Runner's biggest draws back in the '80s.
The bottom line. Lode Runner Classic is just as hectic and demanding as the beloved original, but control problems hamstring the experience.
Lode Runner Classic 1.01
iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later.
A fast, faithful port of the original. Surprisingly good on iPad, even though it's not optimized. Cleverly designed levels that can be tackled in any order.
Every control scheme is awkward in different ways. No level editor.