Boulder Dash - Rocks!
| Boulder Dash - Rocks!

Deep down, everyone wants to be Indiana Jones. Even if you're a neurosurgeon or a cellist, there has to be a part of you that just wants to be wearing an awesome hat, hunting secret treasures and rescuing leggy blondes from firey pits full of snakes.

Maybe it's that secret desire to be chased by boulders and steal precious gems that makes Boulder Dash – Rocks! so much fun. It's certainly not the hero of the piece, Rocky. The little chap might be off adventuring through the universe to find a big enough diamond to present to the love of his life, but being big, blue and smiley he's hardly a testosterone-amped adventurer of Harrison Ford's calibre.

Rocky's quest for the biggest diamond in existence takes him across four differently themed worlds, collecting gems and dodging dangers. The goal of each level is simply to collect enough of the big sparkly stones so that an exit appears and at first that's simple enough, even with a time limit snapping at your heels. Rocky can easily push boulders aside and dig through dirt to make more space, uncovering diamonds and new paths through levels.

The puzzles soon get more complicated, though. Enemies start stalking the levels, damaging Rocky's health if he gets too close, and one-way trapdoors force you to think ahead to avoid getting stuck. The boulder-pushing idea becomes more complicated, too, with heavy boulders that can't be pushed and a ray gun that can move, disintegrate and pull blocks from a distance.

It's quite a heady mix of challenges that are tossed up again and again in the colourful worlds. Everything's nicely themed, with lava and fireballs for the underground levels, while the jungle arenas are populated by walking bushes and greenery. Add to all that a bright soundtrack and you've got a really vibrant world that has a lot more appeal to younger gamers than the average puzzler might.

Considering the fact Boulder Dash is effectively a remake of a game more than two decades old, it's done well at injecting innovation into a basic idea. The ray guns and other puzzling extras add spice to the individual levels, but there's also entirely new game modes that twist the standard puzzling genre.

The Time Trial mode, for instance, enables players to set and beat their quickest routes through levels, and there's a Double Dash multiplayer that makes it possible to race against a friend. Both of these can be unlocked as you play through the game, as each level hides a special silver diamond that can be traded for extras on the main menu. As well as the game modes, there's also a good deal of bonus levels to be unlocked, expanding the game's repertoire to over 100 challenges.

This includes the nicely innovative Route Race mode, where Boulder Dash takes better advantage of the DS's touchscreen. Here, instead of being able to move Rocky around in real-time, you have to plan out a route with the stylus that covers the entire level before letting him go and hoping you planned correctly. This proves even more puzzling than the main game, and provides a nice break if you're getting stuck on the Story mode.

True, Boulder Dash isn't chess in video game form. There's not a great deal of depth to its puzzling other than a little forethought required here or there, but the concept is simple, and the presentation is clean. Every gameplay concept is introduced in a very clear way, and because each level is only a few minutes long you can die a few times without it becoming too irritating – something that's important if you're considering buying this as a present for a younger player.

The biggest flaw with it all is probably the chunky feel to things. Although the game's concept is sturdy, and the colours are bright, it does feel a little patched together in places. Text flails across the screen and the different worlds don't offer any variation in content, merely in appearance. It's not a terrible problem, because the game is a lot of fun, but it probably would have benefited from being half a long and twice as polished.

But that's not enough to stop Boulder Dash – Rocks! from being one of the more enjoyable puzzlers out on the DS this Christmas. Whether you're an old enough fossil to remember the arcade days of the original, or you're looking for something that's a little different to the next movie tie-in, you could do a lot worse than grab a whip and waistcoat and dive into Boulder Dash's engrossing world.

Boulder Dash - Rocks!

Its appearance might look a little chipped in places, but Boulderdash's simple, puzzling gameplay is solid as a rock
Mike Cook
Mike Cook
Studying Computing in London means that Michael looks for any excuse to get away from error messages and blank screens. Puzzling and platforming on the DS are his ultimate escape.