Cubic Lode Runner
Somewhere deep in the heart of Japan lies a big cute machine. No, the machine itself isn’t cute; it MAKES things cute. On one side there’s a big funnel where you can insert things — moments later they come out the other side, all cute and cuddly. Hudson recently inserted the classic game Lode Runner into that wacky Japanese machine, and Hudson Collection Volume I: Cubic Lode Runner popped out.
Lode Runner first appeared on the Apple II computer way back in 1981, and has since appeared on several different systems in several different variations. Despite the huge graphics update the N64 and PSX versions received, the game has always essentially remained the same. You control the Lode Runner, a man on a mission to collect gold packages. During your quest you’ll face two main enemies: evil Bungling Agents, whose touch is deadly, and the environment itself, which consists of blocks, ladders, rails, and traps. The only tool at your disposal is your drill, which can dig holes in regular bricks. You’ll need to do this to trap your enemies and complete puzzles throughout the levels, but you can just as quickly trap or bury yourself with this tool so you’ll have to plan a head and move quickly to survive.
After 23 years, Cubic Lode Runner for the PS2 and Gamecube drags the franchise into the 3D world. This adds two new gameplay elements to the classic formula. First, Lode Runner can now dig in four directions instead of two. This is performed by pressing one of the four buttons on the gamepad — the buttons correspond with the direction. The other new element is camera control. The field of play can/must now be rotated using the L/R buttons. While neither of these changes sound major, they completely change the way Lode Runner has always been played. In classic versions of Lode Runner, you could set up big attacks by lining up baddies and digging a line of holes. In Cubic Lode Runner, they’ll most likely just run around your well-laid traps. The map rotation went from being a novelty to being annoying very quickly. Within just a few minutes I found myself in positions where the playing field would have to be rotated to see certain areas of the map, but each time I did so I would get confused and frustrated. To try and solve this problem, the game includes a “slice” mode, which allows you to dissect the map and see how things are put together. It felt like cheating to me, and a way to get around the strange camera controls.
The in-game graphics are cute. Lode Runner’s head is almost half of his total height and perfectly round. Likewise, the agents closing in on him have been Japanified as well. The graphics and music throughout the menus have received the same treatment, tipping their hat to games like Bust-A-Move and Tetris Attack and giving the game a “puzzle game” feel. Also adding to that feel is the ability to unlock “gifts” in the game. By beating levels, there are several extras you can unlock — everything from the original NES sounds to movies, backdrops, and additional levels.
Like the classic versions of Lode Runner, Cubic Lode Runner also comes with a level designer. The interface is simple to use, and all the tools are there to create your own levels should you desire to do so. I was afraid that the language barrier might make creating levels complicated, but it really isn’t a factor.
The conversion of Lode Runner from 2D to 3D adds a new level of complexity to the game, but adds a few quirks and a bit of frustration during the process. Cubic Lode Runner may initially be a bit frustrating for fans of the classic series, but the core of the game remains unchanged and that in itself makes it worth checking out.
Graphics: Cute, but nothing Earth shattering. 5/10.
Sound: So cute you want to pinch its cheeks. 5/10.
Gameplay: A few 3D quirks, but still fun. 6/10.