Boulder Dash XL – Review

Xbox Live Arcade Title.
Price: 800MSP
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: No

(Title provided free of charge by the publishers for review)

During my time with Boulder Dash XL I learned many things: tunneling is frustrating, hard work. Diamonds are a gamers best friend. And robots can only tunnel from a side-on perspective.

Boulder Dash XL is a remake of the original game which was released in 1984, but also contains a good few new modes as well as a Retro mode that lets you experience the look and feel of the original game.

And like all good games from back in those days, the premise behind Boulder Dash is simple and easy to learn. You’ll be playing as one of two mining robots whose  job is to dig through dirt collecting Diamonds, all the while dodging the falling rocks and enemies determined to turn them into scrap-metal. Along the way you will find a few more obstacles that obstruct your progress,  but the real challenge behind Boulder Dash comes from it’s increasingly challenging level designs and the clock that is continuously counting down. You need to grab enough of those shiny rocks to unlock the exit and hightail your ass out of there before time runs out, all the while being careful of the rocks which will topple at a seconds notice should you accidentally remove some dirt that you shouldn’t have. As the levels become bigger and more complex, planning a route through the mine without burying yourself under a ton of rock becomes your sole occupation. There’s also several enemy types thrown into the mix and these evil sods are pretty determined to make life a living hell for you. Later in the game you’ll be dying a lot as you run through the level memorizing sections so you can finally put it all together in one slick run from start to finish, but it never enters the real of unfair as you feel like every death is your own fault for simply not being quick enough or smart enough.  It’s simple and quite addictive fun, but after a while I did find myself tiring of the gameplay. There’s little more that I can see about such gameplay, after all it’s so simplistic, so easy to pick up and play that no long-winded review is required.

Arcade mode is the main meat of the game, and at a hundred stages there’s a considerable amount of gameplay rammed into it. Stages may only last minutes but can keep you playing for considerably longer, whether it’s from dying or lot or just going back to improve your time and beat your friends on the leaderboards.

There’s a few other modes sprinkled on top of the Arcade mode, as well. Puzzle mode stands as one of the best as it takes away the time-limit and simply challenges you with completing each mine as quickly as you can. The puzzles start off very easily, but over time gain a cunning level of fiendishness (word of the week: fiendishness) that will have you scratching your head and dying quite a bit.

Should you wish a more relaxing game you can switch onto Zen mode which lets you play the Arcade mode mines with no time limits, allowing you to plan out routes and master the different mines. It’s a nice addition to the game and I found myself using this mode a few times so I could practice a run to try to hoist myself up the leaderboards.

The final mode is the Retro mode, and if you can’t figure out what that is from the name then I recommend going back to or staying in school for a long time. Enter this mode and the graphics shift back to the pixellated mass that passed for good graphics in those days. It’s charming to see the game play out in its original way, though I did note that some effects were missing.

While gameplay outweighs almost everything else in-game, it should still be said that Boulder Dash XL is not a pretty sight to behold. The backgrounds like almost archaic in their design, and the characters themselves don’t look that much better. The game simply looks boring and murky, flat color palettes really don’t help to liven it all up. Still, in a game such as this the graphics are there simply to provide a clean playing space, and in that respect the graphics are up the job. After all, it’s a robot digging stuff up. How complicated do the graphics need to be?

The sound isn’t going to be blowing your mind, either. The music is generic, slightly annoying and repeats itself constantly until you begin to go insane, or just hit the mute button. Thank you mute button, I love you. The sound effects, like the music, are also simple and generic. This certainly isn’t a masterpiece of sound, but like the music I can hardly criticise it that much: after all, this is an old-school game. Would I complain about the sound in Pac-Man? Hell no, he’s a yellow disc gobbling shit up.

The final point I’ll make could be taken as a negative or positive: Boulder Dash XL may very well make younger generation gamers  cry. Is that because of foul language? blood? guts? cats getting decapitated? Hell no, this is a game about little robots, not Gears of War. No, the reason is due to the difficulty of the game. I can easily envisage newer or younger gamers simply throwing their controllers through the screen as they die for nth time. As I said, negative point or positive? That’s hard to say, but for me it was a refreshing change from the hand-holding games that dominate the market today.

So, what’s the verdict? Boulder Dash XL is a decent revival of a classic game. The gameplay remains simple, and because of that it remains addictive and entertaining, but I did tire of it when played for long periods at a time.

The Good:
+ Simple, addictive fun.
+ Leaderboards!
+ Puzzle mode.

The Bad:
– Dying 😦
– It’s no looker.
– Or sounder. Is that a word?


Graphics: 6
Basic, bland and boring.

Sound: 6
See ‘graphics’

Story: 1
Go into the mine and get the crystals. That’s really it.

Gameplay: 8
There’s a reason that games like Boulder Dash are called “classics”. It’s a simple idea that makes for great gameplay.

Lifespan: 8
Arcade alone has a 100 stages, and that’s not counting the Puzzle mode, or Score Attack mode.

Overall: 7.5
Summary: A solid remake of a classic title. It’s simple, it’s challenging and it’s fun, and at 800MSP it’s a steal.

Categories: Reviews

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