Or: How I Fell In Love With The Modern World

Even viewers who aren't all that alert may well be able to recall the very recent WoS feature on the splendid Gameboy Advance version of veteran platform game Lode Runner. In said feature, WoS viewers were promised something related to its vanilla-GB predecessor Hyper Lode Runner, and since WoS is the website that keeps its promises, here are some coconuts. (By which we mean, "another Lode Runner-related feature, and also an excuse for a really weak headline pun".)

Now an alarming 15 years old, Hyper Lode Runner was one of the original Game Boy's earliest releases, a Japan-only title which your intrepid correspondent picked up in one of the exciting import-game-stuffed electronics shops which used to litter Tottenham Court Road in London, before Nintendo started having anyone selling import games beaten to death with cricket bats. It's a remarkable piece of software, notable for being absolutely insanely hard (most people give up crying by level four of the 50), but amazingly, the difficulty isn't the most insane thing about it. And what IS the most insane thing about it? Read on, little guy!

Until now, a strikingly pointless option.

The clue, chums, is in the screenshot above. Hyper Lode Runner includes an Edit mode, in which you can design your own levels for the game. Now, there's nothing particularly weird about that, of course - Lode Runner games have often come with level editors. The strange and mystifying thing about Hyper Lode Runner when viewed in that context, though, is that the cartridge doesn't have any save memory.

Yes, you heard your reporter correctly. Hyper Lode Runner will quite happily let you spend hours creating splendid, fiendish levels with its easy-to-use, highly-functional editor - the only trouble is, as soon as you switch the Game Boy off, they're lost forever. There's no battery save, no password that'll bring them back, no way (as far as your correspondent has ever been able to ascertain, anyway) of sending them via the GB's link cable to another person's machine, nothing at all you can do with your hard work except play your own levels for a while (fairly pointlessly, since you already know how to beat them) and then switch off.

Nothing, that is, until now.

A live-action shot of editing in progress.

In your reporter's Emulation Zone columns for PC Zone magazine, a recurring theme was how modern emulation doesn't just recreate the gaming of the past, it often actually improves it too. From fixing bugs, to increasing the speed of games which were once unplayably slow, to simply making things look nicer, emulation has frequently added functionality to previously-flawed titles, and nowhere is this better illustrated than by the addition of save capabilities.

Whether it's the use of save states to get round bits of a game that you just couldn't beat and finally accessing all the other levels you paid for but never got to see, or saving progress where checkpoints were once just too far apart for modern attention spans, emulated gaming finally lets players dictate the terms of their playing according to their own desires. Only got 20 minutes to spend with a game, but the save points are an hour's play apart? Not a problem any more. And thanks to emulation, for the first time ever it's also now possible to share user-created Hyper Lode Runner levels with other players. Accordingly, World Of Stuart proudly welcomes all alert viewers to - Hyper Lode Runner SE!

...resulting in the nice easy opening stage of Hyper Lode Runner SE's four custom levels.

This WoS-exclusive special edition of HLR actually runs via the "Goomba" Gameboy emulator for the Gameboy Advance, which might seem like a strange way of doing things, but was chosen so that SE could be played on real portable hardware as well as via emulation. By putting it on the Advance, the special edition takes advantage of the GB emulator's save states, which enable the custom levels to be transferred to a real machine. (This function isn't available, so far as your reporter knows, on Flash carts for the GB.)

Hyper Lode Runner SE (does the "S" stand for "Special"? "Super"? "Save"? Or perhaps simply "Stuart"? Who can tell?) contains four custom stages, each with two interlinked sections (this is the highest number of stages the editor will let you create at one time), designed by your reporter for an increasingly-taxing challenge but without the soul-crushing savagery of the standard game. To play the custom stages, either load up the game ROM in the emulator or real GBA with the save file included in the zip or, if that doesn't work (some WoS readers have experienced problems with the .SAV-format files), import this save-state file instead from the emulator's File menu. If you use the normal SAV file, activate it by pressing the L and R buttons together and then selecting "Load State" from the menu.

This stage is WoS's tribute to Mr Driller. (You can't see the reason from this screenshot.)

Just in case you're not familiar with the objectives of Lode Runner games, your task is to collect all the gold nuggets in both sections of each stage, then escape by climbing to the top of the first section. The key opens the door to the second section, which must be completed within a time limit (indicated by the music speeding up) - if you don't collect all the gold in the second section and get back through the door in time, you'll be trapped there. The first section has no time limit.

The game doesn't allow you to play the custom stages in sequence - once you've completed one, you'll have to select the next one manually with the A and B buttons, then use the Select button to choose "Game" and the Start button to enter the stage. (It doesn't matter whether you select, say, Level 2-A or Level 2-B, the game will automatically start you at the beginning of Level 2.) But they're all in there, and should keep you out of trouble for a while. No fair using the Edit mode to make them easier.


PS If for some reason you want to play Hyper Lode Runner SE on computer, but via a Gameboy emulator rather than a GBA one, you'll just have to recreate the levels yourself by copying the layouts from the editor. To help, the maps can be found in JPG form here. Looking at the maps just to help you beat the levels, however, is CHEATING.

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