Oct 21, 2011
Boulder Dash is one of those games steeped in history, starting with its birth on the Atari and later finding its way to computers and even the NES. The game was simple to pick up and provided enough brain teasing challenge to keep players coming back for more. Today, this iconic game graces Android devices with a collection of five Boulder Dash games, but this is not the trip down memory lane some may be looking for.
The concept of this game is simple. Players take the role of Rockford, who must dig through a series of caves to collect a specified number gems required to unlock the exit door, and this task must be accomplished before the timer hits zero. Bugs, falling boulders, amoeba, slime, and expanding walls provide plenty of obstacles to work with, while beating harder stages will take plenty of planning and forethought to complete. Make no mistakes about it, this is a challenging game to get through.
While the game does not keep the pure retro look of its past, First Star Software did keep the pixellated 8-bit aesthetics but revamped for the standards of today. Sprite animations consist of a few frames of movement, stages are a smattering of three to four basic colors, and big blocky pixels makeup everything in the world. It is a nice homage to the games from which this comes.
Sadly, once the nostalgia wears off things quickly start to deteriorate thanks to the obscenely finicky controls. There are three methods to control Rockford and they all have nuances that add an unnecessary difficulty to the game. The tilt controls are not precise enough for a game such as this, the split controls (placing up/down and left/right arrows on opposite sides of the screen) take a fair amount of time to adjust to, and the d-pad is too small which leads to an excessive amount of wrong key presses. This is a game which needs solid controls to conquer the harder levels, yet they fight players almost as much as the stages themselves.
The second concern is the price. At $3.99, this is an expensive game. There are plenty of good retro puzzle games on the market that offer just as much fun but at a fraction of the cost. Having to then buy additional caves as an in-app purchase adds insult to injury. If this game included everything, as in no in-game purchases, at the $4 it would be a good deal. There are free updates to push extra content, but having to buy more levels feels too much like a money grab.
Tweak the controls while dropping the price slightly and this would easily be a recommendation for fans. As it stands now, however, battling the controls detracts from the overall fun that this game ultimately could be. The high price and lack of all content unlocked is also a bitter pill to swallow. Wait for this to go on sale before adding it to the game collection.