I recently used the term ‘boulder dash’ as an expletive at work and was surprised to find myself reminiscing about a game that, not only was originally released a year before I was even born but also fondly remembering a title that I have never played at length.

Nostalgia can be a curious thing sometimes. We as gamers sometimes find ourselves lamenting certain games or characters that either had very little influence in our lives or we had no contact with whatsoever.  I know gamers who claim that Robotron 2084 was the greatest game ever created and the birth of the ‘twin-stick shooter’ but they weren’t even born back in 1982 and have never played the game.

This is what I like to call the Legacy Effect. Throughout video gaming history, certain franchises or individual games have left a cult status mark on gamers as a subculture. Everyone remembers Paper Boy, right?

Boulder Dash XL

The original Boulder Dash, released in 1984, had this effect on me. I knew what the game was, I knew its general mechanics and had a vague recollection of playing it when I was younger.  So when Boulder Dash XL was released, I snapped at the chance to play it.

Boulder Dash XL, developed by Catnip Games and First Star Software and published by Kalypso Media Group is a High Definition, 3D rendered remake of that 1984 classic featuring the long-standing character “Rockford” whose main objective throughout the levels is to traverse the maps and collect a certain amount of gems to open the exit door and proceed to the next level.

The main concept for Boulder Dash XL hasn’t changed much since 1984 and frankly, it doesn’t really need to. Obviously, there are a few additions for the modern day gamer such as the inclusion of colored key cards to open sections of the level, different colored teleporters that transport you to a different section of the level, and ‘converter’ machines which transform deadly boulders into diamonds and vice-versa.

Featured mainly in Boulder Dash XL is the Arcade Mode, with over 150 levels for Rockford or his sidekick Crystal to travel through. The simple, innate joy of this mode is that you can never play just one level. With the completion of each level, you find yourself wondering what the next one will hold, or if you could replay that last level and collect all of the gems.

Boulder Dash XL

Also featured in Boulder Dash XL is the Zen Mode, which allows players to replay any previously completed Arcade Mode level without a time limit, allowing them to focus on their gem grabbing skills.  But the star of Boulder Dash XL, for me at least, has to be the Retro Mode!

Displaying a full disclaimer when you click on Retro Mode which states that “Games were a lot harder when Boulder Dash was originally released.” You are already forewarned about the numerous impending diamond or boulder related fatalities that await you.  Utilizing the gameplay elements and the enemy behavior of the original Boulder Dash,  Retro Mode is one of video games guilty pleasures. When you crave to be thrown into an 8-bit world where almost everything wants you dead, Retro Mode, with its wonderful 8-bit soundtrack and faithfully recreated level designs, is your ideal vacation spot.

Boulder Dash XL

Boulder Dash XL is not a hard game to play, but it is an extremely unforgiving one. The 1984 version of the game was even more unforgiving than this (which is clearly mentioned in the Retro Mode disclaimer) where any minor slip of the thumb, or accidental tap of the d-pad in the wrong direction, will spell the end for poor little Rockford.  These are the kinds of games I live for recently. With the remorseless 8-bit video game ethics coming back into video gaming recently, it warms my pixelated heart that Kalypso Media Group has kept the Retro Mode as brutally harsh as the very first Boulder Dash.

Playing through Boulder Dash XL reminded me of a Rubik’s Cube in its simplicity. Its simple design plan is engaging, fun and very addictive, everything you would possibly want from any adaptation of an 8-bit classic.  Except if you fail at this Rubik’s Cube, it’s likely to explode, taking your fingers off with it.  Wonderful and a real pleasure to play.

Boulder Dash XL
Title : Boulder Dash XL
Format : XBLA
Developer : Catnip Games / First Star Software
Publisher : Kalypso Media
Release Date : 07/13/11

[starreviewmulti id=1 tpl=20]

*Kalypso Media provided SlimGamer.com with a promo code for a review copy.