Game Reviews

Boulder Dash - The Collection

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Boulder Dash - The Collection

The original Boulder Dash - and its many, many ports -perfectly encapsulated the spirit of Indiana Jones-esque archaeology.

You want the diamonds, so you risk getting crushed or blown up to get them. Swiping enough to pass the level is one thing, but gathering every gem - well, that’s a whole new level of risk versus reward.

While this Android collection of Boulder Dash games, both old and new, manages to rekindle our ardour for rock-dodging, it’s held back by lacklustre presentation and limited content (unless you’re willing to fork out for more).

The descent

Although the original’s pixellated graphics have been given a bit of spit and polish for this first Android outing, thebarely animated replacement sprites hardly shine on large-screen devices. Plus, with a looping, irksome, 'muzak' and minimal sound effects, it’s hardly a treat for the ears.

Fortunately, the classic gameplay remains largely untouched, so retro fans won’t have their rose-tinted spectacles knocked too askew.

Playing as explorer Roderick, you have to collect enough diamonds in each level to unlock the door to the next cavern. Moving automatically digs you through the earth, with bricks, metal walls, and piles of easily dislodged boulders being the main obstacles.

As you progress, enemies like deadly fireflies and butterflies patrol the levels - although the latter will explode in a shower of collectable diamonds if killed. Some walls, meanwhile, will stretch across the screen when touched, and there’s an ever-growing amoeba problem to contain.

Although there’s a clear design to the puzzles in each level, with plenty of opportunities to crush, blow-up, or trap yourself, there are numerous routes to success, which adds an element of freedom and replayability.

Rocky restarts

Controlling Roderick with a virtual D-pad is more reliable than you’d expect, despite the reliance on quick dashes to escape falling debris.

Opening a backpack icon enables Roderick to pick-up or dig adjacent areas without moving a space (handy if there’s a rock waiting above), with collectible power-ups such as bombs and, gravity-defying level twists activated from the same menu.

While this stops the screen from overcrowding with icons, it can be a bit of a faff to keep closing and reopening the backpack every few seconds in the tricky later levels. Thankfully, levels are short enough for this to never really test your patience.

Still, to make it through the 30 stages included in the main game (especially on the hardest of the three difficulties), you can expect to restart (or commit explosive suicide) endless times if you want to retrieve all the diamonds. The added bonus of collecting OpenFeint achievements for your endeavours helps a touch.

Crushing costs?

Where Boulder Dash - The Collection really falls down, however, is in its name.

Rather than getting a definitive 'collection' you are instead getting just Boulder Dash M.E. 2 (from 2005) for your dough.

Four further iterations, stretching back to the Commodore 64/Atari originals (complete with 8-bit graphics and chip tunes) are available as in-app purchases.

They’re only 60-or-so pence apiece, however, and the ports are nigh-on perfect - right down to the chipper tunes and rough, blocky sprites.

So if the mere mention of Boulder Dash brings a nostalgic tear to your eye, then this version is mostly worth the asking price - just don’t expect the flawless diamond you remember.

Boulder Dash - The Collection

The classic gameplay has stood the test of time, but be prepared to double - or triple - the asking price to complete your 'collection'