XBLA Review: Boulder Dash XL

Is this 80s arcade game still a classic?

I never played the original Boulder Dash, so this was my first time playing the game and was surprised with what I found. You play as either Rockford or Crystal as you dig and move boulders to collect enough diamonds to reveal the exit to each stage. It sounds simple, but it gets notoriously difficult as the levels introduce new obstacles like enemies and rockslides that instantly kill you.

Boulder Dash XL is a basic concept, but it’s strangely addictive as you try and complete each stage. The standard arcade mode gives you a time limit to gather a set number of diamonds before the exit will open, while the Puzzle mode has smaller caves which require you to gather all diamonds and eliminates the time limit. Zen Mode lets you replay past levels to get practise without the pressure of time.

Score Attack lets you try and get the highest score by hitting the exit as quick as possible. Finally, the Retro mode makes the game 8-bit and even more difficult as even falling diamonds can kill. There are quite a number of caves to complete in each mode and each will test your patience and skill. I was impressed with the variety of the caves and how challenging they can be, but that can also be a bit off-putting at times as it can be frustrating. Boulder Dash has had a nice facelift with the XL version, but it’s not much to write home about. The sound effects are average.

The Verdict

Boulder Dash XL is a nice and addictive puzzle game that is well worth a look. It can be downright addictive but also annoyingly difficult at times. It’s a classic reborn, although I fail to see the real need for the Score Attack and Zen modes.