Run, Run, Run. Run, Run, Run... Away!
Psycho killer, what is that? It's a little red bastard who, at every turn, manages to destroy sequels. Ah yes, sequels; the god given right of any game to have its memory defamed and its fans pissed the hell off. Well I'll just state this plainly, I AM PISSED OFF WITH THIS GAME!
In the entire world there are only three things over which I would become murderously enraged, should their sequels stink. They are: Star Wars, Wing Commander, and Lode Runner. I've been a Lode Runner fan since it originally came out (in the prehistoric 80's) and I played it on a dowdy old Macintosh 512K. Back then it simply did not get better than Lode Runner.
The gameplay was fast, strategic, nail biting, and in all ways kickass. There were about 100 levels of thievery and fun. Hell, it was one of those games that defined what PC Gaming would become. Lode Runner is sacred, it is the seminal Virgin Mother Mary Convict of side-scrolling arcade games.
The basic premise was that you were some sort of thief who wanted gold. You ran around picking up gold, evading cops (or Mad Monks), blasting open holes in the ground, and dying quite a lot if you weren't slick. It was cool.
Now enters Lode Runner 2. Good old Mother Mary in cell block 2D is not the virgin she once was. I picture her wearing ragged black clothing, nineteen facial rings, 3 different colors of hair for each eyebrow. Needle tracks broadcasting their sticky redness. A Virginia slim in one hand, a bottle of whiskey in the other. A drunk truck driver pulled up one day and took Scarlet O'Hara away to Time's Square, NYC.
Basically, Lode Runner 2 fails because it is attempting to make a side-scrolling 2D game into an isometric, fake 3D game. See, in LR2 the gaming world is an isometric grid. This means that the four directions you have are North West, North East, South West, and South East. This means that control in this game has taken a terminal shit. Don't believe my angry words? Just try using the keypad 7,9,1,3 keys for the directions I just mentioned. Then try using q,w,a,s for zapping the ground in those directions.
It's insultingly awkward and it doesn't leave many free keys to perform all of the various other actions such as: let go, drop bomb, suicide, pick up/drop, use, and cycle bombs. You just don't have enough fingers to really control this sucker effectively unless you really jinx around the controls long enough that any interest you ever had in the game is gone. Then you play the game, and guess what? You might have gotten an elusively comfortable control set up, but the game sucks.
Problem 1: The control, even if you modify your keyboard or hands, is highly unresponsive. It sometimes takes two taps of a directional key just to turn to face that direction. At other times the slightest tap will have you bounding down the grid to an unfortunate encounter with one of the "Mad Monks" (strange dudes dressed in blue robes who for some reason are protecting vast gold deposits and will slice you in half like a Jell-O pudding if they catch you).
Problem 2: False advertising. The punks who pushed this cheap dope lauded it's "3D-World" and "Dazzling 3D Graphics." This game is about as 3-D as Crusader: No Remorse. The entire game is in fixed viewpoint isometric 2D, not 3D, not remotely. To add further insult, the 2D graphics are about as compelling as those in Crusader, accepting of course that Crusader came out in late '95 and this is now late '98.
Problem 3: Is this some cheap bloody Acid Trip? Yes folks, there is no realism in what you see. All these island-like environments are suspended above some sort of misty backdrop that clashes blatantly with the underground environs of the recent Lode Runner Returns and Lode Runner Online (both excellent remakes of the original, look them up and give them an obscene phone call).
To make it even worse there is only 1 good environment type: Jungle. The Jungle is fairly attractive to look at and features creepy plants with really big human eyes. The eyes don't hurt, mind you - the designers wouldn't have sprung for something so interesting, and this is merely window dressing. The other environs are bad Techno, bad contemporary construction yard, and really, really bad children's building blocks (Chutes and Ladders, anyone?).
Also, to kill off the gameplay, the designers included bombs. These bombs are your other way of killing the Monks or a multiplayer opponent. They work just like those bombs found in Bomberman, shooting their flames in an easily avoided +. They suck - add another to the tally. So does the multiplayer for that matter.
Is it any fun? No. Not remotely. And no, the included level editor just extends the misery. It adds nothing to the value. Look, overall this game simply blows. I cannot stress enough how much of a crime I think this game commits by its mere presence. I love the original Lode Runner and its two faithful sequels from way back in '96. This is not Lode Runner. It is not fun. IT IS NO CHILD OF MINE! LEAVE THIS HOUSE AT ONCE!