Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary Review
First released in 1984 for Atari consoles, Boulder Dash was an extremely simple game that played beautifully on the greed and opportunistic natures of its player-base – do you really need to risk being squashed by a handful of man-sized boulders for only 3 gems? Why the heck not! More times than not, this would end with poor Rockford squashed and the player repeating the level (with a few curses thrown in for good measure). It’s an adorable game that became a large part of my childhood, which made me feel extremely old when I started reviewing Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary (which really is something considering I’m only 25). Yes 30 years of digging, gems, monsters and inevitably getting crushed – kind of like a very early Minecraft, if you think about it.
Developed by TapStar Interactive Inc and First Star Software, Boulder Dash: 30th Anniversary combines the classic game experience with new environments and a colourful art style. Fans of the original title will be pleased to note that the gameplay is pretty much the same as the original title: using the WASD keys, dig through dirt to collect gems, avoid falling rocks and make it to the exit. With 11 worlds and 220 unique levels, there’s plenty of content to keep you entertained for hours, and the progressively increasing difficulty will appeal to newer players and people looking for a challenge. This is further reinforced with 3 difficulty modes: casual (which removes the level time limits), normal (with the time limit) and hardcore (where falling gems can kill you in addition to rocks and enemies.. ouch!) Even on casual mode, some of the levels are still an absolute pain to play – it’s good to know that after 30 years Boulder Dash is still just as infuriating as it was when I was a child!
Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary features multiple unlockable characters, which are obtained by collecting pieces of special loot in chests throughout the levels. Each new character has unique improvements, which really come in handy for the more difficult levels. For example, Crystal has +2% bonus movement speed (great for dodging those falling rocks), while 8-bit Rockford gives you an extra 10 seconds on the level timer. These loot chests are hidden in the dirt throughout levels, and also have a change of containing 4 new power-ups: a 2X boost, Dynamite (to blow through certain rock spaces) a Spy Glass (which allows you to look around the map and plan your next moves) and a Freeze bonus (which temporarily freezes enemies and gravity). Each of these play a vital part in making it through the levels, so learn to use them well!
The downside to these power-ups and unlockable characters is that the chests can be rare – some levels may not have any at all. Unlocking new characters takes quite a while (some requiring 100 pieces of loot) and levels can be extremely irritating without any power-ups for assistance. In a way this increases the game’s replayability, forcing you to repeat completed levels for chests, but it also presents the issue of extremely boring loot grinding! Nothing says mood killer like having to do the same level a dozen times just to get a particular power-up, and it’s a trap that a lot of puzzle games seem to fall into. This isn’t so much an issue while you’re completing the easier levels for the first time, but it does become more prominent as you use your supplies in the later areas. Of course, you could always purchase additional power-ups using the in-game gold, but at 3 whole pieces per 3-star level, you might want to horde it for a rainy day.
If you do manage to complete all the levels and unlock every character, the PC version comes with a Steam Level Editor, which is great for players that want to take their gaming experience one step further and make life hell for other players. Similarly to Mario Maker for the Wii U, I expect there will be lots of difficult and even ‘trolling’ caves ready to download – the kind of caves covered in butterfly enemies and mountains of unmovable rocks. The 30th Anniversary edition also has 2 DLC packs, for when you just can’t get enough digging done: the first is a true throwback to the original game, with 20 remastered levels from the 1984 game, while the second contains 20 hardcore caves created by Peter Liepa – the designer from the original title. You can grab both of these from Steam for a little over $4.
I’ve really enjoyed playing Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary: it’s a fun and challenging game that really brings back the equal love/hate feelings for the 1984 version. It’s cute with a progressive difficulty that might be a challenge, but is in no way impossible, and it’s great to see that the original mechanics and characters are all present and accounted for. The addition of power-ups and the sheer amount of content help it to feel more like a new title and give the franchise a fresh spin that even retro gamers can appreciate (trust me on that, I tested it with my parents and they surprisingly loved it). It may not be an absolutely perfect game, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of puzzle games or the Boulder Dash franchise.
Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary is available to buy on Steam right now for $14.99/£10.99. Alternatively you can splurge a little more and get the Deluxe Edition, which includes the game and the 2 DLC packs for only $18.02/£13.46 (currently 5% off).
Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary was reviewed on PC.