Review

Boulder Dash XL Review (Xbox360)

When you first load up Boulder Dash XL, it’s difficult to imagine it eating into your spare time as much as it does. It’s very basic, naturally, given it’s basically a remake of the classic original, but just like that old timer, it’s the equivalent of Onken, as in you just can’t put it down until someone shouts at you for being such a glutton.

It’s not all delicious yoghurt, of course, as after a while things get a bit samey, but more on that later. The core of the game is the Arcade mode, where you choose one of the two (identical in everything but look) mining robots, Rockford or Crystal, and set about collecting the number of gems required to open the exit door.

If old Rockford doesn't watch out, that boulder will crush his puny metal head

Every level has three basic elements – the gems you need to collect, the rubble/dust that forms a porous barrier and the boulders that can fall and crush you.

Sprinkled into the mix are various monsters, keys, locked doors, teleporters and so on, plus a time limit that keeps things interesting, and sometimes makes seemingly easy levels extremely challenging and nerve-wracking.

Alongside the general Arcade mode, you've got Puzzle and Score Attack ones to check out, the former being a series of increasingly difficult little conundrums that offer a different enough challenge to the vanilla game that they'll provide enough of a diversion when you get bored of it.

There are four environmental 'looks' but none of them make the actual gameplay any different

Score Attack maps tend to be very large and just involve doing the same sort of thing you'll have been doing in the Arcade mode. There's also a Zen mode, which is Arcade minus a map time limit, and Retro mode to have a glance at, which takes things back to the ancient days of yore (1984 CHECK) with big-pixel vision, but essentially the mechanics are identical, so it's just a curiosity for everyone bar those who want to get all of the achievements.

So as you can see, the main problem with Boulder Dash is that it gets quite repetitive after a fairly short time, even with the addition of said puzzle or extra elements. The addition of a multiplayer or co-op mode would have made a big difference, but sadly – unless your reviewer happened to miss something completely obvious – it's solo only and is worse off for it.

The more gems you can collect in a short time, the higher the score bonus

As it's just an XBLA release, the repetition is more acceptable and, in a sense, proves that there's enough material here to warrant a purchase. It's certainly difficult to claim you'll be left wanting more by the time you plough through the hundreds of levels covering all the game modes.

And, unlike something like, say, Ms Splosion Man, the difficulty level isn't so great as to put off the more casual observer, even though you may well die quite a bit on the harder levels. It just lacks that bit of variety and any sort of multiplayer that would push it right into recommended territory.

Favourite game moment: Playing with the wife, swapping the controller whenever one of us died. The closest the game gets to multiplayer or co-op, sadly.

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