DEVELOPER: Broderbund (port by Sega)
RELEASE DATE: 1985 (JP)
Remember Lode Runner? Stick man with questionable agenda collects all the gold sacks in each level while being pursued by other stick men. Not quite a puzzle game, not quite an arcade game, something in between. People with moderate intelligence could beat the game with enough time, effort, and patience. Not so with the followup.
You’re gonna need the mind of a champion to even get past the first couple levels of Championship Lode Runner, let alone the entire fifty-level game. Like, eat a box of Wheaties a day, understand the entirety of quantum physics, and “Hey look, I found Bobby Fischer!” type-of champion. I’ve come to terms that I’m not smart enough to complete the game past level two. And you know what? My grandma is Mensa-level smart and she’s only reached level fifteen. No joke, my grandma owns a copy of Championship Lode Runner and has been playing it off and on for about twenty years, since I was a kid. This game does not front on its definition of “champion.”
In level two, for example, the game has the Lode Runner and an evil stick man falling adjacent to each other as the level begins. The Lode Runner is placed slightly above the stick man because as they fall, the Lode Runner will need to run atop the stick man’s head back and forth in order to collect four precariously placed pieces of gold. Fail to do this right the first time and you need to re-start the level. But that’s only the first part of the level. Many of the levels need to be analyzed and thought through before you even start. Unlike the original Lode Runner, there is no margin for error here, no multiple ways to collecting every gold bag. Play like a champion or get out.
Unforgiving difficulty aside, Championship Lode Runner does make a couple much-needed improvements upon the original. For starters, you can abort any level at any time. This does take a life from you, but you have five lives and you receive a password upon the completion of each level, so lives are pretty expendable. The game wants you to use passwords. When you power on Championship Lode Runner for the first time and select ‘Play’ on the menu screen, the password entry is the first thing that pops up, not the first level. Write them down, memorize them, tattoo them on your forehead. Passwords forever. The game also has five different speed settings that you can change anytime throughout each level. Since one of my complaints about the last game was its overwhelming speed, the ability to shift between Speedy Gonzales and Eeyore-levels of movement pleases me.
Even with the crazy hard challenge, Championship Lode Runner is a better game than its predecessor thanks to its improved features. Speed selection, the ability to restart levels, and ample passwords: all these things should have been in the original, but weren’t. Kaloo, kalay, here they are in a game I can’t play (or can barely play, if I’m being generous). But it’s not Championship Lode Runner‘s fault that I don’t have the mental muscle to devote to its challenging levels. It’s a top-notch puzzle title, for sure, just not one for the faint of brain.