Boulder Dash


Review by Bruce Consolazio



Graphics: 8

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 10

Overall: 9

By the mid-1980s, most ColecoVision owners, even the more dedicated ones, would have been greatly surprised at the number of titles that actually existed for that console. They (this includes yours truly) could've listed maybe several dozen, but few knew that well over 100 titles of almost every variety were available somewhere! Among those little-known ColecoVision cartridge games was a gem of a game called Boulder Dash.

Originally a 1984 Atari computer game from First Star Software, Boulder Dash is a game not unlike Mr. Do! and Dig Dug in concept. You play a little character named Rockford, whose mission in life is to dig through 20 screens ("Caves") in order to gather enough Diamonds to open a small door leading to the next Cave. Along the way he must contend with Walls, Magic Walls, Boulders, Fireflies, Butterflies, Amoebas, and a time limit. Each Cave, which is larger than the television screen and surrounded by an indestructible Barrier, is different than the one before it, and usually requires Rockford to do something different in order to gather the needed number of Diamonds. What he must do depends on the Cave and what is in it...

Diamonds are diamond-shaped objects made of scrolling horizontal lines. As mentioned earlier, Rockford must collect a number of them to advance to the next Cave. Walls are found within the playfield, and will block anything. They can, however, be destroyed by an explosion. Magic Walls look just like Walls, but, when Boulders are dropped on them, they will start glittering and can change any Boulder falling through them into Diamonds, as long as there is empty space beneath them. They will also change falling Diamonds into Boulders. Their power only lasts for a short time. Boulders are just that, and will fall if nothing is below them. If they fall on Rockford, Fireflies, or Butterflies, then they and anything nearby will be destroyed in an explosion. Rockford can hold up a Boulder, or push it left or right, as long as nothing is blocking it. Rockford can outrun falling Boulders, as long as he doesn't hesitate. Fireflies are flashing squares that move around. If they touch Rockford or the Amoeba, or are struck by a falling Boulder, then they will explode in a 3X3 area, destroying anything caught within. Butterflies, X-shaped, multi-colored creatures, are similar to Fireflies, except that their explosions yield up to 9 Diamonds. Amoebas, green, twitching masses, grow constantly. If surrounded completely by Boulders (Rockford can act as one, as touching an Amoeba does not harm him) and the Barrier, it will turn into Diamonds. If allowed to grow unchecked, it will reach a certain size and turn into Boulders.

Sometimes all Rockford must do is gather most of the Diamonds. Sometimes he must create them by dropping Boulders on Butterflies, or luring them into the Amoeba. If the Cave has a Magic Wall, then clever digging is needed to clear a large enough space beneath it and to properly set up Boulders to fall through it within the time the Magic Wall's power lasts. Or maybe Rockford must destroy a portion of a wall with an explosion to reach Diamonds. Each Cave is like a puzzle, and there is often more than one way of getting past it!

ColecoVision owners will not be disappointed by this version of Boulder Dash. Graphics are good, albeit different from the Atari version, with each Cave being done in different color combinations- including Rockford himself, who will blink his eyes and tap his foot impatiently if the player takes too long to act. The glittering Magic Walls are especially well done, as are the Butterflies. All relevant information is nicely shown at the top of the screen. Scrolling, however, is somewhat choppy, and the animation in some places is not up to the Atari version, and this prevents this game's graphics from getting a higher rating.  Sound is appealing enough, with different objects having its own sound effect. There is even music for the title screen. You are warned when you have 10 seconds or less to finish by a chiming sound. The Amoeba makes, well, the sort of noise you'd expect from such a thing.  Gameplay is where this cartridge excels. There are 20 very enjoyable Caves, each one different, with Caves 5, 10, 15, and 20 being bonus screens. You can start at skill levels 1 through 5; and in skill levels 1 through 3, you can start at Caves 1, 6, 11, or 16, which is helpful if you are having trouble with a later Cave. 1 or 2 people can play. In the higher skill levels, things move more quickly, you have less time, and most Caves are set up differently. You also have to gather more Diamonds in certain Caves. The game has a pause feature (press the "0" button), but be careful- the "*" key will forfeit a life and start the screen over (in case you are trapped and cannot continue), and the "#" screen will start the entire game over! Previous and even high scores are recorded!

 Boulder Dash is a superb game, and the ColecoVision version does manage to capture the charm and gaming magic of the original. Fans of this sort of game will certainly enjoy it, and those looking for something different should consider it. Boulder Dash was simply another little-known game for the ColecoVision that deserved much more attention than it received.

*Helpful Hint- If you hold down the fire button and then push the joystick, Rockford can affect the neighboring space without actually stepping into it!


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:16 PM