I may be showing my age here, but I fully remember the original Boulder Dash; in fact, it is one of my very earliest gaming memories. I couldn’t really confirm which platform I played it on (although there’s a high chance it was on my beloved Commodore 128), but it’s a game which I remember both vividly and with much fondness, with hours upon hours of game time thrown in.
That does however mean Boulder Dash Deluxe has got much to live up to, if only not to break the heart of eight year old me.
Thankfully, heart breaking isn’t part of what this Deluxe version of Boulder Dash plays on. And in actuality it’s a really good spin on an utter classic.
Rockford is the start of Boulder Dash but here and now in 2021, some 35+ years since the birth of this boulder dashing hero, a good few changes have taken place. These ensure there’s just about a place in the modern era for some proper puzzle themed boulder dashing.
The action is split across nine distinct world areas – there are ocean, jungle, desert, snowy mountains are more all present – each of which come complete with a ton of stages within. From there, each of those have up to three stars to collect, all dictated and determined by your success in maneuvering Rockford to exit gates. Do well, collect gems, don’t get squashed by rocks, fail to be nabbed by numerous foes, and hunt down hidden secrets, and the full complement of stars will be yours. Rest on your laurels and let a fairly strict time limit bite, and you’ll be found refreshing your attempts until you work out the finest of strategies.
For anyone unfamiliar with Boulder Dash, all you need to really know is that initially you find yourself slap bang in the middle of a rock-filled arena, with the aim to safely navigate to an end of stage exit gate, all without poor Rockford coming a cropper. Do so and you’ll fast find yourself repeating the process in further, more sprawling stages. To unlock these gates a specific gem count is required, with these scattered across the land and needing to be collected. It’s up to you to dig through the dirt to grab these gems.
Simple enough, eh? Well yes it is, except that every level has a ton of boulders delicately positioned, ready to fall as soon as some intrepid adventurer removes their platform. You see, boulders and gems happily roll off each other, ensuring each stage is an ever evolving arena. Get squashed by falling items and you’ll find Rockford left to start again, unless there’s the willingness to stump up collected gold bars for extra time and a bit of a retry.
Those rocks and boulders can also fall – or occasionally be pushed – onto unsuspecting foes. Boulder Dash Deluxe comes with all manner of these, from spiders to sharks, to gorillas and more. For the most part each have their own patrol pattern and it’s fairly easy to work around them, at least that is until you start messing around with their space and set them loose. Additional game ideas and level inhabitants are unlocked with each new world, with those sitting behind specific unlock criteria. Mostly the unlocks are linked to numbers of collected stars, but others come attached to the accumulation of special treasure items which are hidden in secret chests. And secret chests are good, because they are full of loot which can further help your progress.
There are also additional abilities linked to these too, letting you customise Rockford with roller skates for added speed, the chance to add additional time to the clock, to gain extra points on the collection of gems and more. There’s a fair amount going on here with all hugely appreciated, but it’s a shame that working through the clunky menu systems in order to appreciate everything causes problems.
Boulder Dash Deluxe is well appointed in terms of collectibles, as it is in the visual aspect. This is a game that pops throughout play, with new and improved cartoon-styled graphics an obvious major improvement over those from decades gone by. That said, there’s the opportunity to take in a blast from the past by ditching the new Rockford for a more old school look, whilst Classic stages are also available for those willing to head back a few decades. These are bound to find love from those either looking for a nostalgia hit, or wanting the chance to experience first hand what gaming was like back in 1984.
It’s the modern Deluxe vibe that is the standout here though, as are various ‘powers’ sitting under face buttons. You see, when all other options are left exhausted, these let you explode the area around Rockford when you find him penned in and unable to escape, double the scoring when star limits are on the line, let you scan the stage via the use of a spyglass and go about freezing foes to help create easier pathways.
The biggest help of all though? That would be making use of the D-Pad. You see, Rockford feels a little twitchy to control when you attempt to use the left thumbstick for movement, and so it’s the D-Pad which allows for the precision you are in need of. You’ll also want to make the most of the right thumbstick as this cleverly lets you remove dirt and wotnot from the squares adjacent to Rockford’s position, without putting him in harm’s way. If anything it lets you dig without fear – and that’s a good thing.
As an ageing gamer who grew up with the early video game scene, as new ideas flowed and mascots were just starting out on their all encompassing journeys, Boulder Dash Deluxe manages to find a place in the heart. It’s a well crafted, delicately delivered modern take on an utter classic. There are enough stages in place to keep you diving into the boulder moving madness for a decent length of time, all while managing to keep the flow and draw that the original provided.
Whether you’re new to Boulder Dash or remember it fondly from back in the day, the new Deluxe edition is well worth taking for a roll – especially when you consider the sheer number of stages included.
Go Bouldering Dashing in Deluxe style by visiting the Xbox Store