Boulder Dash-XL

The simple, but repetitive arcade game of old.

By Daavpuke, Posted 18 Jul 2011

Boulder Dash is an overlooked legacy. For already over 25 years, the little man called Rockford has been digging tunnels, dodging boulders and getting diamonds while facing mortal peril. As the name would suggest, Boulder Dash-XL is the extra large culmination of the miner’s lifework, complete with updated 3D graphics and additional game modes.

To reiterate, the point of the game is to collect all the diamonds in a cave and exit in time unscathed. While digging for goods, Rockford will have to zigzag through monsters, outrun cave-ins and generally try not to get crushed. This is a lot harder than it appears at first. While the primary view of the game’s mechanics seems easy enough, there is some finesse in weaving through a level and obtaining the highest possible score. Boulder Dash XL will have 5 different modes to complete caves in: Arcade, Puzzle, Zen, Score Attack and Retro.

NoobFeed Review - Boulder Dash-XL
The new Rockford in his enhanced cave, ready to dash around boulders.

Depending on what mode is chosen, graphics differ slightly, but generally the game is presented in colorful 3D, with an emphasis on cuteness. It isn’t anything special, but it does the trick and gets accompanied by some equally cheery cyber tunes. Unfortunately, the classic music of yore wasn’t transposed, but the soundtrack does remain in glorious 8-bit. If only they would’ve cut the annoying countdown voice, because in rapid succession that gets old fast.

But is the game as fun as it used to be? Yes and no, depending on the entry point of the series. Arcade mode is fairly straight forward: Complete a cave and move on to the next as each level gets progressively more difficult. Along the way, new gameplay elements are introduced, such as powerups or keys and doors.  In Zen mode, this is done with no hassle; just relax and get paid. On the other hand, Score Attack pumps up the hassle and expects an optimum payout in as little time as possible, while still getting to the exit. Here, an understanding of the level and ideal use of powerups are key to success. Luckily, this game offers an exploration view that stops time, while players can map an imaginary route towards diamonds. In Puzzle mode, this very specific knowledge of clearing a cave will mean progression onto the next level, so it pays to know exactly how the boulder falls and what power does what.

NoobFeed Review - Boulder Dash-XL
Classic pie-faced Rockford, getting ready to die in Cave B in Retro mode.

However, Retro mode is a step back from the newer experience and is therefore more food for fanatics. Fashioned in the original bitmap graphics, updated towards the new style, it loses some charm, but it’s still the biggest adventure for the puzzle fanatics. While the other game modes offer leniencies for newer gamers, Retro mode only extends one courtesy in the form of grabbing a space adjacent to the miner. Everything else is still as harsh as the alphabetic caves of old had going for them. Forget grabbing diamonds as they fall or health bars; this mode is in it to win in it. One hit and it’s game over. But as this mode is aimed towards the fan, it also answers the previously posed question to a fuller extent.

You see, depending on the amount of previous experiences with the game or puzzles, Boulder Dash XL will become repetitive sooner or later. Even with all its modes and alterations, in the end it’s always grabbing diamonds and hauling ass. For newer players boredom could take a while to set in, but the devotee has seen it and done it before and making the experience fluffier only feels novel for so long. Luckily, this feeling can be justified due to the fact that there are just so many things to do in Boulder Dash-XL. Arcade mode itself has 100 caves and in between that Puzzle and Score Attack can offer a change in gameplay. After that, try and tackle Retro and see how your parents rocked games back in 1984.

Boulder Dash XL is the simple, but repetitive arcade game of old, enhanced towards the new times. Sure it’s not a high-production game and it tends to repeat itself, but the sheer amount of content and gameplay alone make it well worth the purchase. Fans might also get a kick out of reliving the tough Retro mode, but any arcade fan can let loose and grab diamonds while dodging boulders for a while. This game isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.


Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PC
Publisher(s): Kalypso Media
Developer(s): Catnip Games
Genres: Puzzle
Themes: Arcade, Action
Release Date: 2011-07-13

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