Maybe it's just me, but I've never been a big fan of the Lode Runner canon. As an old school computer action/puzzle game it was fine, but I could never get into it enough to sit there in front of the monitor for hours on end. I would much rather tackle Tetris or any of the other puzzle games of that era. For nearly thirty years I have just accepted that I wasn't the target audience for Lode Runner.
But as of today I am proud to say that I have been saved. You see, on my 29th birthday I finally had the opportunity to play Battle Lode Runner for the PC Engine. It's taken me a long time to experience this multiplayer treat because for some strange reason nobody decided to release the game over here, even though the TurboGrafx-16 was hurting for fun five-player games and the entire game was already in English. Perhaps it had something to do with growing older or finally experiencing a game I've been hearing about for nearly two decades, but whatever the case may be I have become a Battle Lode Runner convert ... and I'm not embarrassed to admit it.
Battle Lode Runner is the exact combination of the original Lode Runner (the classic 2D puzzle game where you dig up holes and try to trap your enemies) and Bomberman (the free-for-all party game where you blow everybody up). This may sound like a weird combination, but it won't take more than one game before you start to see why this combination is so addictive. With its fast-moving rounds, anything-can-happen gameplay and competitive fights, Battle Lode Runner may just turn into that one game you pull out when you have a bunch of people over.
The gameplay hasn't changed much since the original Lode Runner, it's still about a guy who runs around the screen digging holes and trapping enemies. The biggest difference in this game is that you have four other guys trying to do exactly the same thing to you. Like Bomberman or Worms or any other party game, Battle Lode Runner rewards the last man standing. After crowning the winner of the match everything is reset and you're off to a new location.
For the most part all of the battles play out in the exact same way. As you run around digging up holes you will be able to upgrade your character and trap enemies. Take too long and a new set of baddies will pop up speeding up the round. This may not sound like an exciting match, but once you get the hang of it Battle Lode Runner becomes one of the most addictive games on the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16.
Beyond the multiplayer/arena game mode, there are also a few other variations on the theme. There's a cool puzzle game that will require you to actually take some time and plot your actions. And don't forget about the solid (although simple) single player modes that will keep you going until your friends come over. But like Bomberman '93 before it, Battle Lode Runner isn't about the single player experience, this is one of those titles that is all about the multiplayer fun, and there's no doubt that this game delivers.
While it's nowhere near as popular as Bomberman and other party games, Battle Lode Runner proves to be one of those ideas that just work for whatever reason. It's disappointing that nobody ever took this idea and ran with it; as good as this game is I can only imagine an upgraded sequel improving on every element of the design. As it is Battle Lode Runner is a fantastic multiplayer game that has been largely ignored by American gamers. If you're one of those people who never played it but have an open mind, then Battle Lode Runner is definitely worth picking up. It may not look like much, but Battle Lode Runner is one of my favorite multiplayer games for a system that was full of memorable party titles.