The year was 1983 when an intrepid, treasure-seeking stickman spelunked his way onto the Apple II home computer. Video games haven't been the same since. That was the year the original Lode Runner was released by Broderbund Software and quickly captured the hearts of gamers everywhere with its groundbreaking combination of platform/puzzle action. Fast forward 30 years and Tozai Games has brought Lode Runner back! Lode Runner Classic is the newest iteration of this classic game -- one of many, many versions to have been made over the years. But does it stack up to the original?

One of the best things about playing Lode Runner is the combination of brutal, old-school gaming reflexes with a strategy oriented way of thinking. If you've never played Lode Runner, here's the skinny on what sets it apart. Even though you have a gun, you can't use it to shoot the red-shirted guards that relentlessly pursue you. Also, you can't jump.  Those old games are just mean!

Who would have thought that a platformer where you can't jump or shoot enemies would be this much fun? It seems like blasphemy, but it's kind of awesome. I think these demanding qualities are a big reason why Lode Runner has had such staying power and remains one of the all-time classic video games.

When the first Lode Runner came out on the Apple II, the last thing I expected was that the game would be alive and kicking on a platform as advanced as today's smartphones. It's really gratifying to me that so many people are still interested in the game. - Douglas E. Smith, creator of the original Lode Runner.

Fortunately, the Spartan-like qualities remain intact with Lode Runner Classic. In terms of translating the original, Tozai has done a great job here. The look, the feel, and the challenge all come through in this port. Even though the graphics are enhanced for retina displays, they aren't messed with at all.

The main goal of Lode Runner appears to be simple, but it can end up being maddeningly complex and pulse-pounding. In each level, you must guide the stickman adventurer and help him collect all the gold bars that are scattered about, all while avoiding a group of red-shirted gentlemen who want those gold bars back.

You must avoid these guys at all costs by climbing ladders, monkeying across horizontal bars, and shooting holes in the ground. But you can't dig straight down. You can, however, shoot out a hole to trap a red-shirt temporarily. This is the main defense you have, other than keeping as much in-between distance as possible. It's a lot harder than it looks.

As you might imagine with something that's old school and brutal, tight controls are going to be a must. Because of this, Lode Runner Classic has to be played with the in-game D-Pad that's offered. The Touch and Acceclerometer options are just too finicky to be able to effectively used. You have to make too many sharp turns and split-second moves to make it very far trying to use the those options. The touchscreen option is okay, but the tilt-oriented mode is almost unplayable.

For the right feel, you have to go with the D-pad. Unfortunately, those controls shrink the in-game window, with the console-style controls monopolizing a large portion of the screen. But if you have an iPad, then you are afforded much more screen real estate. This is the way to go if you're set to try and make it all the way through. And since the look of Lode Runner is so basic, blowing up the game to 2x size looks just fine.

Tozai has packed 150 levels into Lode Runner Classic -- a total that makes offerings in current games seem minuscule in comparison. The majority of these levels are quite a challenge as well, with very few of them having an easy way out. In each, you will be put to the test if you want to escape with all the gold bars and your little stickman hide all intact.

Lode Runner Classic is a great new version of this classic franchise that's just as tough and brutal as the original. But try to play it on an iPad if you can.


App Store Link: Lode Runner Classic for iPhone | By Tozai Games | Price: $2.99 | Version: 1.01 | 23.1 MB | Rating 4+

7.5 out of 10 arcade sushi rating