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Boulder Dash, Vol. 1

For: iPhone

Needs to be bolder

Product: Boulder Dash, Vol. 1 | Developer: First Star Software | Publisher: Chillingo | Format: iPhone | Genre: Platform, Retro | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
 
Boulder Dash, Vol. 1 iPhone, thumbnail 1
Geeks have a habit of locking together to protect the things they love. "Don't you dare say that about Spock," they cry as they overhear you quietly comment to a friend how old Leonard Nimoy is looking in the new Star Trek film. Even though he isn't.

To some, Boulder Dash, Vol. 1 will be one of these unconditionally loved classics to be defended at all costs. The rest of us will identify it as a mediocre attempt to make a game whose time has passed. That’s not to say that Boulder Dash, Vol. 1 is a bad effort - just that it’s flawed in several core respects and feels a little out of step as a result.

Your aim is to collect gems by digging through the earth. Once you’ve collected enough an exit opens up, letting you leave. Levels are full of boulders and butterfly-like enemies that cause you to quite literally explode on contact.

It's a simple premise, and one that has enabled Boulder Dash to age tolerably well. This is a game you can pick up and play with little instruction. The things it does with just a handful of different tile types is really quite impressive.

The retro visuals have not fared as well. Thankfully, there’s also an enhanced mode that’s far easier on the eye. The overall look of these new graphics is functional rather than fantastic, but they get the job done.

Fewer concessions are made for the modern gamer in terms of difficulty, unfortunately. Although it may seem like there are 80 levels in Boulder Dash, there are actually only 20 different caves, most of which are duplicated and changed a bit to make up the larger number.

They’re pretty tricky from the off. The level select screen contains four lines of five levels apiece, but once you’ve passed the first few you’ll find yourself skipping between the lines to try and avoid the frustration of retrying the same level ad infinitum.

The game's toughness comes from a timer that puts unnecessary pressure on you to rush through levels. You can play each level on one of five difficulties, though even on the easiest setting you’ve got to get your skates on to have a chance of making it to the exit in some levels. It’s just too tricky for comfort from the start.

Boulder Dash sticks admirably to the original 1984 formula, but we’d have preferred it bulked out with more levels offering a more gentle difficulty curve or at the very least a mode that drops the timer.

As much as those clutching tightly to the nostalgia of '80s gaming may hate to admit it, the fact that gaming has softened over the past 20-odd years isn’t really a bad thing.

What efforts have been made to bring the game up to date in terms of control don't succeed. Three control schemes - one lets you flick a finger across the screen to move, while the other two place virtual D-pads on the screen - don't feel natural. The flick controls are a bust, though the diamond-shaped D-pad emerges as the most amenable of the bunch.

Boulder Dash, Vol. 1
is just a bit too retro for its own good and could easily have been made more accessible with some minor tweaks. C’mon granddad, get with the times.
 
Boulder Dash, Vol. 1
Reviewer photo
Andrew Williams | 29 May 2009
Although it’s a faithful port right down to offering the original now pig-ugly graphics, an uneven level of difficulty and questionable controls trip this golden oldie up
 
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