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Boulder Dash - VC Review

Game Info
Boulder Dash

Virtual Console | Commodore Gaming | 1 Player / 2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways); Classic Controller; GameCube Controller
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4th March 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

With a following of over 10 re-releases and sequels, Boulder Dash is an original game where players guide the main character of the game through dangerous caverns. Originally released in the 1980's on the Commodore 64, Boulder Dash made its way to the Virtual Console a couple months back. Despite the good fanbase it has, Boulder Dash ultimately doesn't work too well as a re-release beyond the inevitable nostalgia aspect.

    Players take control of an adventurous little fella who digs through caves looking for treasures that will eventually open up a way out of the underground maze. Along the way, falling rocks and enemies such as pixellated fireflies will try to impede your progress. Many years ago, this was considered to be a winning formula for gameplay, especially with the added challenge that the game provided. But is still the same case today?

    Well, the game is still as challenging as ever, especially when enemies come into play. As if the falling rocks weren't enough to deal with, some of the enemies can be unpredictable and if you're not careful, the enemies can overtake you rather easily. The game gets you to strategize and think ahead about how digging through dirt can be used to your advantage and how it can backfire, costing you a life! It's a sense of hidden strategy that can be seen in other games today as well so it's great that early games such as this took advantage of such an element. 

    As you move through a stage with your on-screen character, you'll begin to observe how those same deadly falling rocks can be used against the enemies (with careful planning of course). If rocks are covered by dirt all around them, the only way to free them is if a space is created by digging through the soil. If you stand in a free space for even just one or two seconds, the rock will begin to fall and crush you if you're in its path, so you have to act quickly. There is a bit of trial and error involved as you try to come to grips with how the dirt and the rocks interact but once you understand it, it won't soon be forgotten.

    The formula works well and really, it's unsurprising that many enjoyed Boulder Dash since it can be kind of fun. But Boulder Dash will likely fail to leave a lasting impression on the minds of those experiencing it for the first time. Even with the level of challenge that exists in the game, the whole experience comes across as rather dry, and as a result, the appeal of this VC release is mostly geared towards those who played the game when it was still fresh.

    In line with this, the game's presentation hurts the game in this day and age, continuing with the aforementioned feelings of "dry" game design. At the start of the game, you can choose a difficulty level that suits whatever mood you're in thanks to a level select option. But as you try to comprehend how the system works, you'll begin to notice that the interface can be rather intimidating for new players, even confusing for some. When you do get to the actual gameplay though, you'll find your scores and other statistics displayed at the top of the screen. But it may take you a couple minutes just to figure out how everything is organized. 

There's not really much to speak of in the audio department either. The game has some rather unappealing menu music at the start but gameplay itself is permeated by sound effects and clicks that you'd come to expect from a game like this. As a result of this, the game comes across as a bit bland, as it fails to engage the player as much as it otherwise could.

    Even if the gameplay appeals to you, most who give the game a chance will find Boulder Dash to wear off after a while, leaving you only to come back once in a while. Mind you, those that played the game 'back in the day' may still find much to enjoy about this VC release but generally, expect to come away unimpressed with the feelings the game leaves you with. 

    When the Commodore 64 was still making a mark in the gaming community, Boulder Dash was considered to be a delightful experience despite its simple presentation. With a few tweaks, the gameplay mechanics would work well enough to earn itself a modern-day remake on WiiWare. But as a VC release, I can't really feel confident in saying that this game is worth the 500 Points. The game may be worth it for those that have experienced the game before, but if you're interested in trying Boulder Dash for the first time, don't bother paying for it. 

17/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 7/10  - Good concept with simple mechanics (would work well for a remake), challenging enemies, feels a bit dry
Presentation 5/10 - Score displays aren't that user-friendly, game looks pretty ugly even for a Commodore 64 game
Enjoyment 2/5 - Retro gaming experience, nostalgic for those who played the original, not as much fun for first-timers, challenging
Extra Content 3/5 - Lots of levels to try to challenge yourself, high-scores, nothing much beyond that, 2-player support

Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Boulder Dash
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