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Video Game / Lode Runner

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Lode Runner is a Puzzle Platformer created by American Douglas E. Smith in his dorm room. In it, the titular Lode Runner must collect every piece of gold before escaping a stage. Each level has a handful of enemy mooks trying to protect the gold by picking it up themselves and catching the Runner, but they can be trapped (and forced to drop what they're carrying) by pits instantly dug into the platforms using a special gun. These holes regenerate over time, which can defeat enemies (or the player character) if they don't manage to climb out.

The original game, released in 1983 for the Apple ][ by Broderbund, consisted of 150 levels and was one of the first games to include a Level Editor. A myriad of ports and remakes have been released ever since by companies such as Sierra, Bandai, and Hudson Soft (mostly due to the NES version being a resounding success in Japan). A true sequel, the aptly named Lode Runner 2, was released in 1998 for Windows and Mac. In 1999, Lode Runner 3-D was released for the Nintendo 64.


Tropes in the Lode Runner series:

  • All There in the Manual: The story, as is typical in these early games. Turns out the Bungeling Empire stole the gold from peace loving people, so the Galactic Commando ("bounty hunter" in The Legend Returns) known as Lode Runner is tasked with reclaiming it from the guards (later known as monks).
  • Artificial Stupidity: Exploiting it in the guards is very useful, with some levels relying on it. For instance, you can position yourself on a ladder so they climb upwards when you're directly below them.
  • Art Shift: Common in most versions, as the minimalist graphics were interpreted in different ways. Some even had an entirely different Excuse Plot to match, or replaced the characters and setting.
  • Ascended Glitch: The enemies have an odd artificial intelligence. These quirks have to be exploited in Championship Lode Runner.
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  • Attract Mode: The original game showed gameplay from Stages 12, 31, and 11.
  • Buried Alive: One of the ways for players or enemies to get killed is to get buried inside regenerating bricks. Later games such as The Legend Returns even have the character scream in agony while being crushed to death.
  • The Cameo: Who serves as the guards in Hudson Soft's NES version? Why, no other than Bomberman, of course!
  • Collision Damage: Touching enemies from the side or having them land on the player's head means instant death.
  • Cranium Ride: It's possible to stand on the enemies, and in some levels it is necessary to access platforms that are otherwise unreachable (the enemy mooks move more slowly than the player, even when falling, so the player can stand on their heads and walk off as they pass a platform).
  • Distaff Counterpart: Lode Runner 2 introduces the female Lode Runner, Jane, as a playable character. It's unknown what her relation is to Jake (the classic male one) besides the manual calling her his "companion," but if his jaw dropping in the opening FMV is any indication, she's supposed to be some Femme Fatale.
  • Every 10,000 Points: Or every level in this case; completing a level nets the player an extra life.
  • The Face of the Sun: Some of the Wacky World levels in Lode Runner 2 had a sun which would usually look sort of confused, and occasionally would laugh strangely for no apparent reason.
  • Fake Platform: There are trap blocks that look like normal bricks, but can be fallen through (while remaining solid when approached from either side).
  • Hard Mode Filler: In some ports of the original Lode Runner, the levels eventually begin repeating themselves (for example, the Commodore 64 cartridge version only has seventeen distinct level layouts), but with faster monks.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: Lode Runner 2 has the default name of "Digmo," although the manual itself provides different names for each gender.
  • Hub Level: The World Hub in Lode Runner 2.
  • Jump Physics: Averted. The player cannot jump, only fall.
  • King Mook: In Lode Runner 3-D, the main antagonist is shown as the mad Emperor Monk.
  • Level Editor: It really wouldn't be Lode Runner without it, since the original game is well known for having one of the first custom level editors. Most ports retained this feature, although the worldwide NES port did not allow the player to save custom level data since the Data Recorder add-on was not released outside Japan.
  • Logo Joke: Broderbund's "triple crown" logo provides the layout for Stage 4.
  • Meaningful Rename: Since some incarnations introduce the concept of more than one Lode Runner (namely Battle Lode Runner's five multiplayer men and Wes Reckless from The Legend Returns), the name of the main Lode Runner was later given as Jake Peril.
  • Mission-Pack Sequel: Virtually all of the 2D games (although even Cubic Lode Runner resembles a simplified Lode Runner 2) — especially Championship Lode Runner, which is just a fan submitted level compilation pack.
  • Nintendo Hard: It's very easy to die in these games. Championship Lode Runner in particular is much more difficult since the player needs to be intimate with the enemy AI.
  • Oddball in the Series: Lode Runner's Rescue is an isometric Spin-Off similar to Crystal Castles, starring Lode Runner's daughter Alexandra (who could jump and swim, but not dig).
  • Power Pincers: Some of the cover art depicts the guards as robots whose only weapons are clamps for hands.
  • Press X to Die: Nearly all of the games literally have a suicide button (necessary, since there are certain situations that can render a level not only unwinnable, but with the player in a position that they can neither escape from or get to a guard to kill them).
  • Respawning Enemies: Enemies respawn after getting killed. In some levels, this must be exploited by causing the enemies to respawn near gold piles that are otherwise unreachable by the player.
  • Revenge of the Sequel: Lode Runner: The Bungeling Strikes Back for the arcades.
  • Shared Universe: The Bungeling Empire are actually stock villains in several Broderbund games that were first seen in Choplifter! and later in Raid on Bungeling Bay.
    • Hudson Soft developed a video game in 1985 that serves as a direct prequel, showing the origin of Lode Runner as a humble little robot named Bomber Man. You may have heard of it.
  • Shout-Out: The bricks and ladders in many levels are arranged to spell messages. Some are obvious (for example, gaps in the ladders on Level 44 spell out "LODE RUNNER"), while others are subtle. For example, Level 56 has bricks that form the letters "UW," a reference to Douglas E. Smith's alma mater, the University of Washington.
    • Later releases such as The Legend Returns and Lode Runner 2 started incorporating bombs as legitimate gameplay elements, likely in reference to the aforementioned Hudson developed tie-in.
  • Treasure Is Bigger in Fiction: Large gold piles in this series are very common.
  • Updated Re-release: Lode Runner On-Line: The Mad Monks' Revenge is this to The Legend Returns, featuring new items, new level themes, and online multiplayer.