Boulder Dash-XL: Review (XBLA)

Game Review: Boulder Dash-XL
Release: July 13, 2011
Genre: 2D Retro Puzzle
Developer: Kalypso Media
Available Platforms: Xbox 360 (XBLA)
Players: 1 (Single Player)
MSRP: 800 MS Points ($10.00 US)
ESRB Rating: E (everyone)

Read on retro gamers, Kalypso Media has recently released Boulder Dash-XL for download on the Xbox Live Arcade. The game is a remake of a classic, Pac-Man inspired title from the 80’s that had players tunneling their way through dark caves in an attempt to gather diamonds and find an exit before the time ran out. Of course, there were also falling boulders and monsters that would get in your way as you tried to carve your way through each level to keep things interesting. Boulder Dash-XL hasn’t strayed far from this formula, and stays true to its roots while offering some enhanced graphics and different game modes. Boulder Dash-XL has an impressive amount of content, with over 150 levels to keep you occupied. But is it worth the time, money and effort? To answer that, we will need to dig a little deeper.

In Boulder Dash-XL you take on the role of Rockford the robot; the latest innovation in tunnel digging, diamond snatching technology. You are tasked with navigating your way through a maze of various cave networks in a restless attempt to gather sparkling diamonds. In Arcade mode, which is where I spent a majority of my time, the first levels start things off slow and easy, but the game swiftly become more and more challenging as you go. While there are some clever things that the Kalypso team was able to do with the different layouts of the levels, you honestly don’t see that much variation in the environment. Story isn’t exactly one of the chief concerns here, so don’t ask why this little robot is always obsessively trying to collect shiny green diamonds, because he just is.

Rockford the robot.

Aside from Arcade mode, Boulder Dash-XL also features a Puzzle mode, Score Attack, Zen mode and a classic Retro mode. In Puzzle mode you have to find your way to the exit without first smashing yourself with falling boulders or boxing yourself in. Of course, you will get a better score if you able to finish quickly in Puzzle Mode, but you will never actually run out of time, which can make for a nice change of pace. Score Attack places you on a time limit, normally within clear sight of an easily opened exit, and dares you to try and collect as many of the diamonds scattered around the map as you can before returning to leave. Retro mode is exactly what it sounds like, and although it is nice to see that Kalypso put this in, it’s really more for nostalgic value than anything else. Finally, Zen mode allows you to replay levels that you have already conquered in arcade mode, but without the worry of time limits.

There were a number of things I liked about the game; it has an extremely addictive and fun formula, and I can recall having a lot of great times while playing it. It can be really satisfying to finally complete a level that you had been struggling with awhile, or to pop into an exit right before the timer runs out. I already pointed out how I was impressed by the amount of content that is available in this game, but it really is one of the shining features, so it bears mentioning it again. If you are determined and cool headed enough, there is a truck load of challenges to be had with Boulder Dash. Some gamers might find this revisiting of retro gaming’s harsh challenges to be a refreshing change to some of the more modern titles such as L.A. Noire that seem to drag you along by the nose and refuse to let you fail.

Environments are nice, but I'd like to see more of them.

The things I didn’t find to be so illustriously grand about Boulder Dash-XL could be labeled as matters of opinion, but I’ll leave that up to you. First off, the game can be intensely frustrating, and I can safely say that it most certainly isn’t meant for the faint of heart. If you are the type of gamer who finds himself easily shouting out obscenities at his or her television, or who often chunks their wireless controller across the living room, then do yourself and your neighbors a favor and steer clear of Boulder Dash-XL. Crushing, trapping or blowing yourself up is something you will have to grow very accustomed to, I’m afraid (along with restarting the level from the beginning once it happens). I also found the controls to be a little twitchy and overly sensitive, and in a game like Boulder Dash where one false move means starting the level over, this can be very frustrating. The game also lost my save on two separate occasions.

Retro mode.

In closing, I would say that Boulder Dash-XL is worth the $10 price tag simply because of the amount of content and challenges available, but I would be very wary about what type of gamer I’d recommend this to. In my opinion, there are better retro games available on the XBLA such as Galaga or Pac Man/Ms. Pac Man, so Boulder Dash wouldn’t be my first recommendation. However, if you have already played most of the older retro games available on XBLA and are looking for something new, Boulder Dash-XL might be just what you are looking for.

  • Addictive gameplay
  • Lots of content and levels to keep you occupied
  • Great value
  • Weak music and sound effects
  • Frustrating
  • Twitchy controls

Final Score: 7 out of 10

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