Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
Boulder Dash was released in 1990 by virtual unknown First Star Software, and with all due respect, the game plays exactly like you would expect from a developer of that name: It looks, feels, and controls like an old-school computer game.
In either one or two-player mode, the player controls this little miner-looking guy with the classic helmet light as they traverse through different levels of different worlds in progressively difficult digging puzzles.
Being able to navigate up, down, left, or right in all the dirt, this tile-based adventure relies on the physics of falling boulders. Every time you move into a square of dirt, it is removed, including spaces below rocks, which then fell when you move out of the way. Players must use careful timing and nimble speed to navigate the treacherous caverns.
But that’s not all – there are jewels on each stage, big diamond-looking pieces, and a certain amount must be gathered before the exit becomes available.
For a old-fashioned tile-based digging puzzler, it does not look too shabby. The elements are colorful, the enemy beasts in the caves are imaginative, the controlled character is distinctive enough, and the dirt is very dirty and dirt-like. Play follows smoothly and there are no real complaints, although it never exactly reaches among the upper echelons of NES graphics.
The background music is actually pleasant, unlike the annoyingly grating tracks found on some puzzlers, no matter what flavor or genre or twist they have. The effects are simple but appropriate, and overall the experience provides a just-fine sort of audio production.
Creativity and Innovation
Some may consider it a Dig Dug rip-off, but it truly does expand on the dig-puzzle genre with its own distinctive flavor. One truly surprising bonus to be found is the overworld view, highlighting different areas you can travel to and chose, unlike the lawfully straightforward, linear nature of most puzzle titles, whether of the digging variety or otherwise.
The best feature, however, is the password that is granted upon the loss of your last life, that allows a return to where you left off. Without this lifesaver, the game would be absolute junk and not quite fun. As it stands, it is an enjoyable, quirky little gem (pun!) of a Nintendo video game, slightly better than the average stuff for the NES. Retro gamers will enjoy the challenge of getting through the unique challenge presented by level after level, earning a respectable three stars out of five.
For a reference of retro NES games that were better (or worse) than Boulder Dash, look to NintendoLegend.com.