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Retro Monday: Boulder Dash

Boulder Dash has been released on a wide variety of home and portable consoles since the first game in 1984, making its way to mobile devices and recently being re-released for the game’s 30th anniversary. Today I’m going to talk about the 1990 NES version specifically.

In Boulder Dash you play as a miner named Rockford and dig through 2D caves filled with earth and boulders, trying to collect enough diamonds to unlock the exit to each level. The game’s challenge comes from carefully navigating around and manipulating the movement of the titular boulders. They can fall on your head if you dig the ground out from under them, you can get trapped between them or you can block yourself off from the exit, forcing you to restart the level. As well as navigating the caves you encounter enemies who you have no means of attacking directly, instead you have to time and position a boulder so it falls on top of them.

The NES version has a bright and clear visual aesthetic, however the textures for the rocks, earth and boulders have little variety so each level lacks visual distinction to make them memorable. It has an upbeat and catchy soundtrack although I didn’t get far enough to see if that changes much either.

Boulder Dash’s core gameplay of digging away and collecting diamonds is fun on its own, however the added challenge of having to think on your feet and complete each level within a strict time limit gives the game a steep difficulty curve. This gives it some longevity in the same vein as other games of the time. I struggled to get past the third stage in the time I had with it, however the map screen suggested there were plenty more to do beyond that.

Verdict: Recommend

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