When we reviewed the 25th anniversary remake of the classic Boulder Dash game back in May, there were some flaws that kept it from being rock-solid. These included clunky controls and a very low frame rate that made the game a pain to play. However, it seems the developers have gone back, cleaned up their engine, and ported over the PSP/DS hit, Boulder Dash ROCKS! (which we will refer to as BD:R in this review so as to slightly temper our enthusiasm). The results are not perfect, but we found ourselves highly entertained by this game.
For those who are not familiar with the franchise, Boulder Dash puts you in an underground cave maze where you must collect enough diamonds in the allotted time to open the exit. To do this, you dig a tunnel through the grid-based gravel. There is a twist, however: Digging underneath boulders causes them to fall, blocking your path or crushing you. This is still true in BD:R, but new gameplay mechanics heavily build upon the concept.
There is now a health bar, which depletes when you make contact with an enemy or get pummeled by falling boulders. Occasional health packs hidden in levels will replenish your health if you are close to death. You also have a ray gun, which can access four types of ammo such as destructo-lasers and a boulder-pulling mechanism.
Some of the other new mechanics include portals, keys, wall-breaking dynamite, and heavier boulders that cannot be moved. These play a key role is solving many levels, but the majority were scarcely used, and when they were we felt their implementation did not do much to enhance the stategy.
The game is jam-packed with levels, with 84 in the planet tour and 20 time trials. Both modes are pretty self-explanatory: Planet tour is the story mode and the time trials have you racing the clock. It took us about five hours, including multiple takes on some of the levels, to complete them all. Those who love high scores will easily find replay value, too.
Get the weed killer!
Boulder Dash’s engine has been enhanced, and now runs at a smooth frame rate. Both the D-pad and swipe controls worked surprisingly well, but we chose the latter option due to the bulky movement buttons.
One of the most notable changes is the game’s new look. Rockford, who now looks like a cute blue alien, has retreated from his monotonous caverns and is now trapped in four silly worlds: Jungle, Lava, Water, and Netherworld (or the underworld, as we like to call it). The vibrant artwork displayed in each world creates a welcoming environment to play in. BD:R does suffer from bland menus, much like its predecessors, but it didn’t take away too much from the game.
Flames, devil horns’¦ I think I’ve dug too far.
Different visual styles are just about the only difference between the worlds, however. The same mechanics are reused as you progress, making the game much more repetitive than it could have been. Only dedicated players will likely stick it out until the end.
We appreciated the online scoring, but in this day and age of social platforms we hoped for more than just a simple leaderboard. The original Boulder Dash port had OpenFeint, and we hope the developers abandon their new scoring system for it.
Boulder Dash ROCKS! is a quality title, and it exceeds the original in many ways. If you like the franchise, we recommend picking this one up.