|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: First Star|
|Pub: Kalypso Media|
|Release: July 13, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Cartoon Violence|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Boulder Dash-XL is a remake of a game that first released in 1984 for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. A lot of things have changed since 1984. Our game consoles are now able to produce visuals we couldn't even imagine back then. Our game designers have gotten a grasp of what makes a game hard and fun as opposed to hard and frustrating. Our old-school stand-up joysticks have been replaced with D-pads that for the life of me won't ever input the direction I want them to.
"Right! Right! Go right, you stupid robot! Gaaaah!"
My little hissy fit there is basically Boulder Dash-XL in a nutshell. You control mining robots Rockford and Crystal, the replacements for the innocent miner that was the star in Boulder Dash's original release. Your only real abilities are digging and pushing or pulling boulders. That's it. So all you have to do is dig carefully to avoid getting smashed by unsupported boulders or running into patrolling Bomberman-style enemies with simple A.I.
Throughout each level, diamonds are scattered about, and collecting a certain amount of these opens up the exit to the next level. At the beginning, diamonds will be simple to get. All you have to do is walk over them. However, as time goes on and you climb your way up the game's 150 levels, diamonds start to show up in hard-to-reach places. It becomes a bit of puzzle work to figure out how to get to the diamonds you need without dying or running into enemies. Luckily, you have an array of power-ups such as health packs and speed boosts to help you along your way.
There's really not much more to say about the core gameplay than that, but that doesn't mean the gameplay is shallow. The many different stage hazards that you will come across are where the real strategic value of the game lies. For example, there are multiplying amoebas that either turn into boulders or diamonds depending on how you deal with them. There are explosives that can set off chain reactions and even form new diamonds for you. There are enemies that will always turn left or always turn right, and you can get them stuck in an infinite loop by digging expertly around them. The gameplay mechanics are all rather interesting, but the game itself is still frustrating for two important reasons.
First of all, every stage is timed. There is an additional Zen Mode that allows you to play through stages you have already beaten without a time limit, but at that point you've already gotten over the frustrating part. Some of these maps you have to play on are multiple screens tall and wide, and it will take you a long enough time just to find the diamonds, let alone pick them all up without getting yourself squashed. The final levels end up being difficult not because they make you think hard, but because the time limit is so strict. Eventually, you'll be throwing your controller against the wall in frustration because it seems like there is no way to shave extra seconds off your time, even when using a walkthrough, repeatedly pausing the game, and making sure you take every turn exactly right.