11
Jun
12

Xscavenger for NetBSD

Xscavenger is a lode runner clone made by David Ashley in 1997 for the X windows system.  I’m pretty new to the lode runner game itself only having recently played it on my C64 when I managed to get the cartridge on eBay. I found the original very challenging, and interesting in its game play. The cartridge version I have doesn’t seem to come with the level editor that seems to be common to all the other various copies of lode runner. The original had a very vibrant community of people building and sharing levels even in the days of BBS before the internet really took off. Xscavenger similarly also has a level editor that is quite good but I am not sure of how many people are building and exchanging levels. It is a pretty faithful clone, but has its own set of levels that are similarly hard and unique compared to the original. The graphics are very pleasing to the eye, and are very well animated. They even run quite well over a network based X connection. Control is via the keyboard and feels quite good. The player responds to your movements, and making holes in bricks is easy. Although remembering to press the key for the correct side is a bit hard at first you get used to it. You have the option of changing the keys if they do not suite your needs, so you don’t have to live with the layout if you find it hard.  Surprisingly there is also a graphic editor for those inclined on building their own sprites, which is a nice addition, but not one necessary to the enjoyment of the game. I was also surprised to hear my little sparc station playing sound that went along with this game, but unfortunately the sun hardware does not seem to do the sound justice. It seems to play some time after the event onscreen and the sampling rate seems a bit low. I suspect this is more of an artifact of the hardware I am running this on rather than the game itself. The sound that I did hear suited the game and atmosphere, but it is quite difficult with the sound quality issues. The gameplay feels very much like the original lode runner. There are a number of enemies that chase you at roughly the same speed as you run. Out maneuvering them is quite a challenge but because the game doesn’t move too fast you have some time to think, but not too much! There are also the occasional hidden enemy that can appear that if you will get a reward for killing. You do this the same way you incapacitate the other enemies, by trapping them in bricks.

Xscavenger is a very well-built game, it is pleasing to play, and does not tax even a very old system. As I said it is a very faithful clone of the original game so there is very little in the way of new gameplay elements if any. There are however many new levels to enjoy that I think are actually harder than those I found in the C64 version of lode runner with a few exceptions. I’d recommend it to anyone with a unix system who wishes a little lode runner action. If you check out the authors website you will also find a SDL and DOS port of the game. It’s quite an old school style web page you can find here.

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