It’s retro time! Boulder Dash-XL 3d (A bit of a mouth full) is a remake of the classic Boulder Dash game that graced the home computers, and a few arcade machines of the mid 80s. Boulder Dash-XL 3D takes the same formula of the original games and spices it up with fancy new 3D graphics and a nice selection of game modes that will keep you going for a good while.
The original Boulder Dash is an action/puzzle game that has you digging around in mazes, collecting gems and trying to find your way to the exit of the levels. The main objective of the game is to collect gems, which makes the exit of the level magically open. One of its most unique features (and obviously the one that gave it it’s name) is a rather basic ‘physics’ engine – if you destroy a block and leave anything that is moveable unsupported, it will fall down and crush you; just like real life! This makes for fairly exciting gameplay, especially if you decide to take the option to run as fast as you can through the levels and have to hope that nothing falls on you. The way things fall is all based on what is around them. The boulders will roll off any edge if nothing is around them, and this can cause a chain reaction of cascading boulders all aiming for your head, so planning the right path around levels is very important.
The 3DS version adds extra features to the basic Boulder Dash gameplay which are very welcome. Besides the obligatory stereoscopic 3D, there are doors that can only be opened by picking up a key somewhere else in the level and also different types of powerups. One of the more interesting powerups is the ‘Extendable arm’ (probably not it’s real name) which gives you the ability to push and pull rocks or other items from a distance. This opens up far greater possibilities for level designs, as with previous boulder dash games you were restricted to just pushing boulders. Unfortunately I found the controls for this power up a little flustrating, requiring well timed button presses. One mistake and you might need to restart the level again. There’s also an item to increase your speed, which is nice if you want to try a suicide run, but is probably meant more for completionists who think the quickest level time is everything.
One of the really nice features of Boulder Dash XL 3D is the multiple game modes. Each mode has a slightly different style of gameplay and comes with its own set of caves giving a pretty substantial amount of game. Arcade mode is the most obvious game mode to start with, and it plays just like the original Boulder Dash, with the extra features added. There’s 100 caves to complete in this mode, and they all seem fairly easy apart from the last few. Often you’ll find that it’s really, really easy to collect the diamonds to unlock the exit, but getting them all, which gets you a perfect bonus and a big boost to your score, is pretty hard. It’s worth mentioning that there is no online score feature, which seems a pretty big omission. Let’s face it; highscore tables aren’t very satisfying at all when you’re the only person on them. Zen mode is just like arcade mode but without any of the competitive elements, there’s no time limit or score and you don’t have to complete any levels to unlock the rest, as they’re all already unlocked. It might as well be called ‘Practice’ mode. Score mode is an interesting addition. There’s only 4 caves in this mode, but the main objective is to get the highest score in the time given. This proves pretty difficult as the levels are quite big, and getting every diamond in the time given is next to impossible without a lot of practice.
Puzzle mode is probably the furthest away from the original boulder dash, as you need to collect all the diamonds and get to the exit. These levels also feel a lot smaller than the other levels, and a lot of precision and planning is needed to complete some of the levels. This mode feels more like Sokoban but with gravity. The final mode is ‘Retro’ mode. It’s not hard to guess that this mode is meant to recreate the original graphics/sound and gameplay of the original game: “Falling diamonds are deadly!” and so are the enemies. One hit and you’re dead, there’s no life bar. The graphics are pretty impressive as they have taken the 3D game engine and put the original graphics from the Commodore 64 version of the game on top, and changed the display of the bottom screen to something far more retro. The music and sounds are retro too, further enhancing the 80’s feel of this mode. Unfortunately it’s not an entirely accurate representation of the original game as it still feels a lot slower. The original Boulder Dash gave a split-second at most to move out of the way of any falling rocks, but just like any other game mode in this remake; the rocks fall like a dog walking down stairs. This alone gets rid of the unfairly hard difficulty of the original, which is fine in the modern game modes, but it should be back at least for retro mode alone.
Boulder Dash XL 3D is a decent game. It’s stayed pretty faithful to its original roots and not been afraid to add extra fancy features, and comes with enough levels to keep you entertained for a good while. It won’t appeal to the hardcore Boulder Dash fans, or people who have to have the highest score in the world on a game, but it makes a great casual puzzle game. It would have been nice to see online scoreboards and a level editor with levels that you can share over the internet. Hopefully in the next version!
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.