Thanks to Tapstar for the review code
Title: Boulder Dash: 30th Anniversary Edition
System: Steam (PC/Mac)
Release Date: 09/13/2016
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the famous Commodore 64 puzzle game, First Star Software and Tapstarr worked together to port the mobile version of Boulder Dash over to Steam. Just like that version, there’s little in terms of story outside of the fact that Rockford must explore the many caves he comes across in order to take back the gems he finds within.
Being a steam game, you do have plenty of options for adjusting things such as the resolution or V-Sync, among other features that can be found in the options menu. Like with pretty much every other computer game, if you don’t change these settings to fit your machine, it’s likely to get warm. (And in some cases it’ll still get warm regardless, though recent updates have fixed this a bit)
Therefore, since the results will vary from machine to machine, I’ll mostly focus on the art style they picked rather than how sharp things may look. Unfortunately, if you liked the dark, atmospheric style of Boulder Dash XL-3D (The last major entry in the series) you’ll see that it’s completely gone here, with Rockford and his friends being a group of ordinary looking explorers instead. The enemies do fare a bit better though, with classic enemies getting a nice upgrade to 3D and looking a lot nicer than they did in XL. Another positive is that you can unlock the original Rockford from the C64 game if you prefer to go retro with your appearance. (There’s also DLC available for 3D remakes of the C64 levels if you’d like)
The viewpoint will also look a bit different to those who’ve played the original game, as it’s now a weird 3D view that’s kinda slanted. Luckily just before I got down to typing this draft a new update added an alternate setting that sets the view to look more like the original, which pretty much solves that problem altogether. Thanks developers!
Music and Sound
Oddly enough, one thing I noticed with this game was that there was barely any music to speak of, with the sound effects being loud enough by default to drown out the few tracks that are in this game. Still, turning down the sound effects in the settings will allow you to listen to the songs placed in this game, although there’s really nothing much to write home about outside of the occasional remixed track. Its pretty clear that the developers are encouraging you to listen to your own music via the Big Picture mode, which means you can pretty much make the OST whatever you’d want it to be.
If you’ve never heard of or played a Boulder Dash title before, then learning the basics is fairly straightforward. You move around with the arrow keys, (or controller) automatically digging through any dirt you touch. If a boulder or gem is above you, it’ll fall once you move, which can be manipulated in ways to make it fall on top of enemies or clear a way. Grab the target amount of gem, head for the exit without dying and you cleared the level!
The 30th Anniversary edition comes with a huge amount of worlds to unlock, with each of them being able to unlock either by using a certain amount of gold (a random item found in treasure chests) or by getting a certain amount of stars. (gained from clearing each level with a lot of points) For a puzzle game like this, this is fairly basic, with the three different difficulties offering more points at the addition of an extra challenge. (Normal adds a time limit, while Hardcore removes the special powerups and makes falling gems kill you the same way they did as the original.)
However, being a port of the mobile version some leftovers of that infrastructure rear their ugly heads. While you don’t have to pay to win anymore, getting powerups or gold bars to unlock the other characters can still be very time consuming, mostly because it all revolves around if you get a random treasure chest. This doesn’t affect how you unlock worlds that much, but if you want to unlock any of the other characters you’ll need to grind for their special item, which can take ages and is entirely luck based. Thankfully you can speed it up a bit with gold bars, but since they are also subject to this luck based drop system, it gets to be a big pain in the end.
In conclusion, Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary Edition accomplishes exactly what it set out to do, and that’s to provide the classic Boulder Dash experience updated for modern computers. (since the original 1984 version was on an ancient computer) While there were a few problems I planned to point out in this review, they were pretty much addressed in a software update before I went to work on this draft, which only left in the minor issue I pointed out earlier. If they can fix that in a software update as well, (either by having enemies drop them or giving them away more frequently) then I feel that Boulder Dash on Steam is a great addition to a puzzle fan’s library that would be worth the steep $15 price point.
As it stands now though, you’ll have to ask yourself this before you decide to make the purchase. Do you prefer grinding in a puzzle game to unlock minor extras, or are the levels what matter most to you? If the latter is your answer, then I think you’ll find that Boulder Dash still offers plenty of content for the price, even if you have to work a bit too hard to unlock everything. There’s even a level editor included if you want even more levels, although your mileage may vary on using it depending on your creative skill. I give Boulder Dash: 30th Anniversary Edition a 7 out of 10, and recommend it to fans of puzzle games or fans of the original 1984 classic. Just prepare to be in for some grinding.