Boulder Dash was first released on the on Atari 8-bit computers in 1984, and later released on other systems such as the Commodore 64 and ColecoVision, as well as being ported to the NES. The Commodore 64 version also made its way to the Virtual Console in 2008 and 2009 for Europe and North America respectively. Now, though, this classic computer game finally gets an update with new graphics and everything on Xbox Live Arcade.
The idea of Boulder Dash-XL is simple. You control either Rockford or Crystal, two cute mining robots where they have to collect diamonds with a quota that changes every stage and avoid cave-dwelling creatures and then run like hell to the exit before you lose health from getting hit too much, run out of time or meet an untimely death due to falling boulders.
More often than not, you’ll be suffering from that last one. Several times, we found ourselves crying out in disbelief that we had just gotten killed by one and had to start this lengthy stage over again. (We found most of our deaths to be our own fault.)
Gravity shifts everything from the top to the bottom, so you have to make your moves carefully and quickly before you realize you’re already dead. As long as you have some dirt under the boulder, you’ll be perfectly fine and safe from anything falling on you.
While this game itself is pretty simple in nature, we found it to be surprisingly complex in exactly what we had to do to clear the stage. While the quota is easy to reach, getting to the exit might be more of the challenge. Importantly, though, all the deaths and “Try Again” screens you’ll see will mostly be your fault. In some games, you’ll die because of either really cheap game physics or even some terrible glitch that might fall upon you. But with Boulder Dash-XL, we knew exactly why it happened. Many times, it was because we didn’t push a boulder far enough or because we went up one space too far.
The game provides you with several different modes of play: your typical arcade mode which seems to be the main focus of all the modes, a Zen Mode which takes all your cleared caves and removes the timer so you could learn the maps and plan accordingly, a Puzzle Mode where you have to collect all the diamonds to open the exit and advance, and a Score Attack mode with specially designed maps. There’s also a Retro Mode in a complete 3D 8-bit style. You’ll never find yourself with nothing to do. However, you’ll need to be signed into Xbox Live in order for your progress to be saved since the game automatically disables saving while offline.
Boulder Dash-XL is perfect for those who love a good puzzle game and are extremely patient in the process. Along with the 100 caves in Arcade Mode, the extra modes will keep you busy for a while.
Pros: Tons of content, solid challenge
Cons: The taste of your tears after you get crushed by the same boulder five times in one stage despite knowing where it needs to go