Boulder Dash is a puzzle/action game that was designed, published, and released in 1990 with the involvement of First Star Software, Victor Musical Industries, and Data East Corporation (I really have absolutely no idea who the heck did what). Unfortunately, this game never did receive the proper recognition that it deserved very much. Why am I sitting here babbling? Anyway, read on and you'll see why I consider it a great game.
Well, I must admit that the plot is pretty flat. Stoneford, an old miner and father of Rockford, found himself sick in bed. Realizing that he never finished his mission of collecting jewels of six secret worlds, Stoneford passes his quest on to Rockford. Rockford could be rich beyond his wildest dreams by collecting the jewels in those mines. Therefore, Rockford decided to explore the mines to collect as many jewels as possible to become very wealthy. If you thought nobly risking your life to save a princess was great, imagine what it must be like to risk losing your life just to collect a bunch of jewels for your own personal gain. Maybe Mario should teach this kid a thing or two about what's really important.
Boulder Dash is one of the few NES games that uses the strange "diagonal" camera view. The game seems to take a top camera view, where you view the area from above the character and the character can move all around the screen; but objects, such as boulders and diamonds, can fall from the top of the screen to the bottom, like you would see in a side-scrolling game. I guess you can think of it as a Zelda-like game where all of the items that are higher up on the screen can fall down the screen instead of just staying in one place.
You can either play this game by yourself or you can take turns with another player as each of you make your way through the six worlds. Each of the six worlds, which includes Boulder World, Ice World, Sand World, Ocean World, Relic World, and Volcano World, has four mines to complete. Once you enter your first mine, you may easily see that this is a strategy game. All of the boulders, diamonds, and walls are arranged in such a way as to force you to plan your way out. In each mine, there will be a quota of diamonds that you have to collect. Once all of your required diamonds have been collected, an exit will appear at a certain area in the level. This is a timed game, so if you don't collect the diamonds and find the exit in time, you lose a life. Luckily, each world has a short password that you can use to continue from where you left off if you don't want to fly through the whole game in one try.
There are enemies throughout many of the levels. These enemies are very weird looking and seem to resemble real creatures, such as bees and bats. These creatures continuously follow the path of one wall, in either a clockwise or a counter-clockwise pattern, depending on what enemy it is. Most enemies can be killed by having a boulder or diamond dropped on top of them and can kill you just by touching you; some of these enemies only give you points when destroyed and others turn into diamonds when destroyed. The other enemies can only be destroyed and turned into diamonds by trapping them inside of an enclosure, and they cannot kill you at all.
The controls in this game are extremely simple because there's really not that much to do. The control pad is used to move yourself around, the start button pauses the game, and the A button lets you stand in place if you want to quickly move a boulder without moving yourself. The B button is only used when you hold it down, along with the A button, to lose your turn if you are trapped somewhere in a mine. Aside from the controls being very simple to understand, they are also very responsive. The game control in this game is perhaps so me of the best I've felt in any NES game yet.
Each mine is made up of blocks of background area, dirt(ice, sand, etc. depending on the mine), boulders(rocks, skulls, etc. depending on the mine), diamonds, enemies, and your character. The background and dirt patches are very well done and are varied throughout the worlds, offering a nice variety to the game. The boulders are also very detailed and are all well animated, even if some of them just move from side to side. To keep the diamonds from looking too plain, they are all given a very interesting effect that makes them very shiny. Rockford, though not as good as the background and objects, is designed to keep from becoming too plain; and you even get to pick the color of his clothing at the beginning of the game.
The enemies are what causes a graphical problem within the game. The enemies are supposed to be cartoon-ish renderings of certain animals and creatures. Of course, the size of each block gives the enemies graphical limitations in size and detail; but I can't even make out what some of these creatures are. Some of the enemies do bare a resemblance to the creature they are supposed to represent, such as the butterflies and the octopuses; but even these are a bit distorted as well. All in all, the game enemies are the only parts of the game that keeps it from having a great graphical score.
The music in Boulder Dash is very well composed. Some of the background songs are bound to get stuck in your head sooner or later. In much of the background music, there is a sound used that seems like a cross between a morocco and a handclap, which is used very nicely in the songs. Each of the four mines in each world uses the same background music, but the music in each world differs. The songs for each world fits the mood of the game very nicely, as well.
Even the game's sound effects are top notch. When you move over a block of dirt, you hear a sound that is similar to one you would hear when pressing a button on a typewriter; it may seem like a strange sound to use, but it actually fits the action very nicely. When a boulder or a diamond drops from above, you hear the high-pitched sound that is usually associated with a bomb dropping from a fighter jet. When a boulder lands, you hear a nice "thud." When a boulder or diamond drops on you from above, you hear a "bang" as you lose a life. You also hear the typical "ding" sound when you collect a diamond. Though there may not be very many sound effects in the whole game, the sounds featured come very close to being some one of the best set of sound effects I have ever heard in any classic game.
This game is also pretty tough to complete. There are no bosses anywhere in the game, but the strategic levels become difficult right from the second world. In some of the levels, the boulders and enemies are so dangerously arranged that it becomes almost impossible to defeat the level unless you can figure out the one method that will get you through. Though, the proper methods of going about your duty in each mine isn't extremely hard to find. With some good thought, you will eventually make it through the game without having to break your fingers off just to make it to the end.
For a strategy game, Boulder Dash is pretty entertaining. The interesting layout of each mine is enough to get you get those old head gears turning, but it's not so much as to make you want to run over the cartridge with your car. Each level is completely different from all of the others, giving this game a variety you may n ot find in many games of this type. There are only four mines in each world, keeping the game from becoming too dull by forcing you to make it through a dozen levels of the same kind.
Overall, Boulder Dash is a great NES game and is definitely one of the most overlooked and underrated games of its time. The game was very well designed and remains as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, strategy game on the NES. It's sad to see companies put so much work into designing and releasing a video game like this, and only have it receive little recognition at all. So if you like to play strategy games, this would make a great addition to your NES collection.
- Story (3/10): Merely a story of greed in risking your life just to become wealthy.
- Gameplay (9/10): A pretty unique strategy-like gameplay is featured in this game.
- Controls (10/10): Controls are very simple and very responsive.
- Graphics (8/10): Almost everything is well animated and detailed except for the distorted enemies.
- Music (9/10): The songs are very well composed and are bound to get stuck in your head sometime.
- Sound (9/10): As with the music, the sound effects are very well done for this game.
- Challenge (8/10): The game is an awfully challenging strategy game that will keep you thinking
- Replay (7/10): Boulder Dash is an entertaining game that can provide much entertainment.
- Overall (8/10): This game is one of the most underrated and overlooked NES games ever.
My Score: 8/10