Boulder Dash-XL 3D Review
Game: Boulder Dash XL 3D
Publisher: Reef Entertainment/First Star Software
Available on: Nintendo 3DS, Xbox LIVE Arcade, PC
Reviewed on: Nintendo 3DS
Some might say that classic games never die, they just get rebooted or remade. A series that dates back to 1984, Boulder Dash earned masses of critical praise from various publications throughout the late 80s and early 90s, before disappearing into relative obscurity until the last decade. Last year the series returned again, thanks to an Xbox LIVE Arcade and PC installment in the form of Boulder Dash-XL and that very same title has been ported to the Nintendo 3DS, for portable Boulder Dash-ing fun.
So, for those of you that have been under a very large rock over the last couple of decades (or were smaller than a pebble during the 8-bit era), the basic premise of Boulder Dash demands that you collect a set number of diamonds, while avoiding enemies and trying not to get crushed by falling masses of rock. The game takes place in a top-down view, but thanks to a strange gravitational abnormality, rocks and diamonds fall downwards so long as their path is clear. Your character can dig through soft dirt blocks, which will cause supported diamonds and boulders to fall down, crushing any enemies underneath, or yourself if you aren’t careful.
GRAPHICS: This port earns it’s “3D” moniker by utilising the 3DS system’s display to convey a passable feeling of depth to each environment, although this adds absolutely nothing to the game itself. Otherwise, the game is graphically identical to the Xbox LIVE Arcade/PC versions, albeit with a noticeably less-smooth frame rate.
Each world has its own graphical theme, but as you can imagine these are all generic gaming locations such as the jungle world or the world with lots of ice in it. The main characters of Boulder Dash, Rockford and Crystal, have been redesigned to look like robots (as opposed to the original game’s depiction of Rockford) and while both characters are selectable, there are no differences between the two, other than cosmetic ones.
SOUND: Much like the game’s visuals, the audio is passable but incredibly generic. Sound effects are simplistic in nature, while the soundtrack is forgettable even if it does fit each of the game’s themed environments. It does the job without being too irritating, although you’ll miss nothing by keeping the volume off.
GAMEPLAY: With gameplay mechanics as ancient as the caverns that make up the game’s settings, it isn’t enough to simply present a few levels and a single gameplay mode to the player and call it a day. Thankfully with XL, the developers have tried to add some variety by providing several modes of play. Arcade consists of 100 levels of Boulder Dash gameplay, Zen offers those same levels without time limits (but will not save your scores), Puzzle gives you 25 levels of brain teasing stages that challenge you to move boulders and collect items in order to collect all the diamonds and get to the exit without getting stuck. Score offers a mere four stages to destroy as many enemies and collect as many diamonds as quickly as possible before exiting the stage, while Retro gives you 25 tough levels inspired by the original game, and also skins everything to look like the original, as well.
It’s a testament to the game’s mechanics that any time you die or get stuck, it is never down to the game design. Failure is entirely your own fault, which is an aspect of game design that is forgotten all too often in this age of 1080p visuals and Triple-A games. A wrong move can easily kill you, but you quickly learn from your mistakes and carry on your shiny thing-collecting ways.
LONGEVITY: By my math, there are over 150 levels to play around with. While most levels can be finished in a minute or two, they get a whole lot tougher and will take a lot longer to finish as you progress. Although admittedly, your desire to clear every level will probably wane well before you each the final stage thanks to the repetitive gameplay that is usually the downfall of many a retro title. The new Puzzle mode is a new take on ancient mechanics, but it’s just unfortunate that there weren’t more of these levels. Without any sort of online Leaderboard, the Score mode just seems a bit redundant.
VERDICT: As retro reboots go, Boulder Dash-XL 3D goes further than most. Added value comes in the form of new modes, although some more levels for these modes would have been appreciated. At a budget price of around £14.99 it’s slightly little more expensive than the Xbox LIVE Arcade and PC versions, but this release suits a portable system more than a console or computer.
Those with more modern tastes may find the whole thing a little repetitive, but long-time fans of the original game (and its many clones) may find enjoyment in this release, provided they haven’t already dipped into the previously released non-3D versions of Boulder Dash-XL. Unfortunately it’s the type of game that hasn’t stood the test of time.