Title: Hyper Lode Runner
Developer: Doug Smith
Platforms: Nintendo Game Boy
Genre: Platformer, verging on puzzle game
Players: One or two players
Since it was released in 1983, Lode Runner has kept many people up all night collecting treasure and trapping people in pits. It has subsequently been converted to many formats, including the humble Game Boy. I decided to find out how this handheld version, released under the cunning new name of Hyper Lode Runner, compared to the original.
First off, there are less levels. This isn't the end of the world though; instead of a massive hundred and fifty, there's a more sensible fifty. After playing the game for a few days, I'm still trying to complete a single one of these fifty levels, so even this comparatively humble amount should keep all but the most obsessive gamers busy for a while.
Slightly more of a concern is which levels in particular are present. I found Hyper Lode Runner to be much more difficult than the regular Lode Runner, with a very steep learning curve. Perhaps to compensate for this, you can start the game on any level you like, but every one I've tried so far is a bit too fiendish for my liking.
Amazingly, this version of the game still comes with the construction kit. This is pretty impressive considering the whole game is squeezed onto a 256kbit cartridge. Unfortunately, there's no battery backup to save your levels with, but if they're that good, you can always jot them down with a pencil and some paper. In my opinion, the fact that this Game Boy port keeps the construction kit intact makes it far more impressive than the convertion of another classic game, Boulder Dash, to this format. As long as you have a friend who also likes Hyper Lode Runner, you can spend a lot of time making levels for each other to try out, which really increases the game's shelf life.
Shrinking the game down
A minor drawback is that the levels don't fit on the Game Boy's tiny screen, so the foreground has to scroll along as you look for treasure that you may have missed. This same drawback is shared with a lot of games that got ported across to the Game Boy, so it's probably something most people just accept as inevitable by now. Like the decrease in the number of levels, it's only a minor gripe.
Oddly enough, the construction kit does show an overview of the whole level on the screen, but as soon as you play the level you made, it zooms in to the normal size and starts scrolling again. Presumably, the developers thought the game was unplayable when the objects were drawn small enough to fit a whole level on the screen at once. Seeing as this game was released long before the updated Game Boy Pocket, I can't say that I blame them.
Can you dig it?
An interesting decision that was made when porting the game across to this machine was the use of the A and B buttons. In the original Lode Runner, the fire button made your character dig a pit in whichever direction they were facing. In the Game Boy version, the B button makes the character dig a hole to their left, and the A button makes them dig a hole to their right (remember the B button is on the left and the A button is on the right). This takes a while to get used to, but is ultimately more efficient, enabling you to more quickly react to baddies approaching you.
To sum up, this version has much harder levels than the original, but it comes with a construction kit so you can make your own. It's a pretty good conversion of a great game, and I'm impressed with how much the developers managed to cram into such a small cartridge.