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Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary
Game Reviews

Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary

Despite having colorful worlds and creative designs, the actual gameplay offers little value for the asking price.

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Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary is a fast-paced action game where our aptly named hero, Rockford, through a series of colorful worlds as he digs, mines, and explodes things along the way. He’ll navigate through easy to hard maze-like levels, using the environment to kill monsters, collect gems, and dash to the exit before the timer runs out. Classic gameplay!

Before I delved into Boulder Dash, I decided to look up the history of the series, especially as its earned an impressive 30th anniversary edition. Originally released back in 1984 by First Star Software for 8-bit Atari computers and more, Boulder Dash has seen a slew of re-releases, remakes, and ports to various devices ever since.

The updated version I had the honor of playing even featured input from its original creator, Peter Liepa for world design with Chris Gray stepping in for a collaboration between the two. It’s worth noting that Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary also became a fermium release by First Star Software for Android and iOS in 2014, meaning this Steam edition should have really been the 32nd Anniversary Edition (but that doesn’t sound as nice, does it?).

Out of curiosity, I decided to give the mobile edition a spin during my playthrough of its PC cousin, as it was free. While there are differences between each version, they’re minimal at best, though worth knowing if you’re considering taking the plunge.

The Steam version has a level creator for players and these additions can be downloaded through the Steam Workshop for free. The introduction of player created levels is interesting and does add an extra element I hadn’t been expecting from such a charming, but simplistic concept. There are also other characters that can be unlocked by collecting a certain amount of items. Each character has their own special ability such as a higher speed boost or a chance to find more chests.

When I played the mobile version the first thing I noticed was how similar each game looked. During my first playthrough on my phone I did have a chance to spin a wheel every two hours for extra loot. While micro-transactions were available, they weren’t necessary to enjoy the game. From what I could see there was no option for player made levels, but it didn’t take away from my general enjoyment.

I’ll give Boulder Dash credit for offering up vibrant, colorful levels to capture the players’ attention. During my PC playthrough I could really appreciate the smooth textures and blocky artwork. Each level also gets relatively harder and more difficult to solve, forcing me to think quickly about the route I needed to take in order to collect the maximum amount of gems. There are also three difficulty settings ranging from Casual to Hardcore for more experienced players.

I did have a harder time playing the mobile version instead of the PC one. Getting Rockford where I wanted him to go using a touch screen versus keystrokes for movement could be difficult at times. When trying to go to the side he would often either go up or down instead. The PC controls respond much better and feel more natural during level navigation. Levels on mobile that were taking me a few minutes to complete only took me a few seconds on the Steam version.

I do have to give the game credit for having charming design and concept. I did enjoy the fast-paced gameplay and problem solving when it came to navigating levels. Setting aside the colorful graphics however, I did feel it was severely lacking in terms of player engagement. Boulder Dash can get boring after about ten to twenty minutes on the PC version since there’s little incentive to continue playing. Unlocking the characters does offer some motivation, but is lacking in terms of long term play.

Another annoyance I have is the starting asking price; a solid $15. This is also comparing the Steam release to its mobile one, and the two are exactly the same. The only difference being a few minimal features that aren’t necessary to enjoy the core gameplay.

I like Boulder Dash, but it does better on mobile then at home on Steam. The concept and graphics are simple and to the point, but I can’t see it holding anyone’s attention beyond perhaps an hour at most, and that’s being generous. It feels like it was designed for a younger audience in mind which is fine, but again there’s no true motivation to play for long lengths of time.

Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary on Steam is a bit steep considering players can get nearly the same thing on mobile for absolutely gratis. While I do appreciate the heart behind the designs and the collaboration between the original creator and the new, it still falls short. Perhaps if this update was more story oriented or offered more features I’d like it more. However, considering the asking price and the fact players are basically playing an exact copy of the mobile version they can get for free on just about any handheld device, it’s difficult to recommend.

About the Author: Nia Bothwell