Saturday, May 10, 2008


I may be way off-base here, but I think KGoldrunner is what happens when you cross Dig-Dug with... Donkey Kong? Something else 80s arcadey, but you can jump in Donkey Kong so it's not perfect. It's an action strategy game where the player must collect all of the gold coins on a level, and then ascend the magic ladder to the next level.

Several things complicate this simple-sounding feat: there are bad guys, for one. But even without those nefarious fellows, levels are layed out in such a way as to utilize your only skill outside of walking. That skill? Digging. To the left or the right. NOT directly below the character.

That limitation is rather important, as it totally changes the way things play out when combined with the other aspect of the digging which is a bit different. That aspect? Blocks dug out fill themselves back in after a second or two, and if you're still where the block was, you diiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeee!

Do you like how I'm eliminating run-on sentences by splitting them up and adding fragments between the two halves? I'm a bit bothered by it, myself. I think next time I will just run on.

Ahem. So, there are two major results of the way those holes operate. Firstly, it's very easy to commit suicide by accidentally falling into a hole you dug. You have to operate in series of holes, if you're going more than one layer down, and it's tricky at times. Especially at first. The flip-side of that is that enemies also die if they're in a hole when it fills back up.

The enemies have a skill that is denied the players: jumping. They can jump out of holes, and will, typically before the hole fills back in, so you have to be strategic. They also never actually die; they just respawn somewhere else in the level after you off them.

All of this needless description of the game mechanics boils down to: real-time action logic-puzzle. Fun mix, to a point. It fails to hold my attention because it ships with hundreds of levels, divided into a half-dozen or so sets. That's actually a good thing, if you anticipate a mind-bending logic puzzle that also requires quick reflexes like I anticipate my next bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. To me, however, it just seems like a lot of busy-work with no pay-off as there's no story or reward outside of amassing points and bragging rights.

Who would I brag to? No one else I know plays these games. Alas, I have been let down by not only myself, but also my peers!

Graphically, it's very basic. Call it hi-res Intellivision. Everything looks a bit blocky, though the actual movement animations are surprisingly smooth. Even at full-screen, things seem small and lack detail. There are a number of different, and widely variant, themes. This adds a bit of flair and personality to the game, or a bit of ugliness, depending on which theme you choose to go with, but they're all of the same basic level of quality.

There's no sound, which I mention because this seems like the kind of game that just begs for an 8-bit sounding beepy-bloopy sort of soundtrack. I don't mind, but if you're going to spend hours going away at it, you might wish for a bit of sound. I made up for the lack by listening to the 80s show on my favorite radio station, 97.3 FM in Richmond, VA! (shameless plug for the station I DJ on)

The controls are probably the most interesting thing about KGoldrunner. You can use the keyboard, in which case it plays rather annoyingly like Pac-Man. You know how Pac-Man keeps going until he hits a wall? Same here. The way these levels play out, though, it's really annoying. Sometimes you want to stop and it's counter-intuitive as hell to hit up or down to stop yourself, and not even always possible (if you're over or under a latter, one of those won't work, it'll put you on the ladder, moving in the given direction).

The other way you control the game is with the mouse: the character heads for the cursor. If the cursor's right on top of him, he stops. I've played Flash games that worked like this, but generally not in this kind of set-up. Running about in a 2D platformer with the mouse with a lot of vertical movement felt very odd and unique. I'm sure that's just because I'm ignorant, but for what it's worth, it's well implemented and doesn't take too long to get used to. Make sure your mouse is working well, though, and look out for the edge of the mouse-pad to avoid frustration.

My final judgement? KGoldrunner is a neat, quirky little game that should appeal to its target audience, although if you need eye-candy you're going to have to look at other action logic-puzzles (good luck; the genre's not exactly chock-full of entries). I wasn't a big fan, but that's a shortcoming on my part, most likely. I've had a gift-certificate to a fancy-schmancy restaurant for the last year that's about to expire: I haven't used it because they don't have anything on their menu I want. I know it's probably all good food, but it's not my kinda food. Same thing here, with KGoldrunner.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hey. Kudos on getting to K, even if the project does seem to have fallen by the wayside since.

Just a heads up so that you'll not be snorted at by the more knowledgeable geeks in the kitchen at a party or something; you got the era right, but the game it is based on is 'lode runner'.

Was a Broderbund game which came out in... (checks wikipedia) '83. If memory serves, when I played it on a friend's Mac back in the day, the annoying "keep running 'til you hit something or change direction" mechanic was in the original, too.