Boulder Dash

a game by JVC, and Vision Works

Platforms: NESNESGBA

Genres: Action, Arcade Classics

  • Manufacturer: JVC
  • Machine: Nintendo Entertainment System

Once upon a time, a boy named Rockford was given a map by his ill father Stoneford. An old adventurer himself, Stoneford tells his son of the underground land of Boulder World. Instructing him to find the Secret Jewels of the Six Worlds, he dies.

Thus the stage is set for Rockford to explore the six worlds of Boulder Dash. This NES version is not the first however. Boulder Dash was the brainchild of Chris Gray and saw much success in the computer world. It was even translated to an arcade version (see the May '90 issue of VG&CE for an interview with Chris Gray).

Rockford's task is to explore four different towns in each of the six worlds and collect the required number of diamonds in each town in order to advance to the next world. After the requirement is met for a town, a secret door appears that enables Rockford to advance to the next town. As each world is completed, a password is given so that play may be started at that world any time.

An on-screen map shows Rockford's progress through each town and world as play advances. One or two players may play, alternating play as one or the other dies. Each game begins with four lives, with extras awarded every 2,000 points. When these are expended, unlimited continues are available to allow continuation in the current world, although each of the four towns must be completed once again.

Clearing each town entails much more than simply running around picking up diamonds, however. A definite strategy exists for each town, both in acquiring the required number of diamonds and avoiding the various enemies that creep about the towns.

Nine different enemies oppose Rockford but may be defeated by either dropping rocks upon them or by trapping them and allowing the amoeba to engulf them. When the amoebas are trapped by walls or rocks, they are turned into diamonds, sometimes providing the last few diamonds needed to advance to the next town. Certain walls also can provide a wealth of diamonds when activated by dropping rocks through them.

Boulder Dash is much more a strategy game than an action game; thought and patience are the key to success. The strategy required to master this game can be difficult until a town is figured out and often remains difficult even if the correct procedure is known.

Graphically, the rocks, mud and walls can only be represented so many ways, so stunning backgrounds shouldn't be expected. Before game play begins, players may choose the color of their player, but this doesn't serve to boost the graphic appeal much. The sounds and music aren't extraordinary, but adequate for a game of this type. Strategy and planning are the keys, therefore, the game play itself is the most important aspect, and Boulder Dash provides a hefty dose of challenge. This gives the game a limited audience, because the action aspects are somewhat restricted, but good reflexes are nevertheless required in some areas.

All in all, Boulder Dash provides the same kind of challenge as its computer and arcade counterparts and is a good strategy offering for the NES, with just enough action to keep you on your toes. Younger players may find this game a bit intimidating due to the fine line between determination and frustration contained in this one.

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Ever get stuck between a rock and a hard place? It's no fun in real life, but it's a real kick in Boulder Dash, a revamped version of the classic Apple II strategy game, new to the NES courtesy of JVC.

Diamonds Are A Guy's Best Friend

You are Rockford, a young adventurer entrusted with your father's failed quest -- to find the Secret Jewels of the Six Worlds for riches beyond your wildest dreams!

It's no surprise that Rockford's father never completed this quest -- it's darn tough! There are six levels separated into four sections, each a puzzle unto itself. Up to two people can play.

ProTip: A key maneuver is to move horizontally very quickly. That way failing rocks can't land on you unless you pause.

Can You Dig It?

In each level, you burrow your way through an underground maze full of stones and diamonds. You must pick up a certain number of gems to advance to the next maze.

Diamonds rest on top of diamonds, on top of rocks, on top of sand, or on top of any number of different things. Tunnel straight through to them, dig a hole so they tumble down to you, or push rocks around till you can get at them. The key is to cause cave-ins, spilling boulders or diamonds into helpful places. Keep Rockford from being trapped, and don't let anything drop on his head.

Carefully release the PingPings in level 2-1 (Ice World) from their lairs one at a time, lead them in a counterclockwise circle back to the lair, and grab the gem there. The PingPings will continue to move in a circle and ignore Rockford.

Of Amoebas and Men

But there's more to this game than shoving stones and grabbing gems! There are baddies galore -- Amoebas, BuzzBuzzes, PuffPuffs, PingPings and, of course, the dreaded BimBims (Honest! We couldn't possibly make something like this up!).

Amoebas are unique. You can't kill them by dropping rocks on them. You must entomb them in rock preventing them from growing larger, but once trapped they transform into diamonds.

Defeat other enemies by pushing rocks or diamonds on them. Better yet, trap them together with an amoeba and they become diamonds, too.

Boulders for Diamonds

Every level requires a different strategy. Some levels are straightforward -- simply grab enough diamonds to open the exit. Some are far trickier -- get diamonds by destroying an enemy, trapping an amoeba, or finding the special walls that change rocks into diamonds.

  • Level 3-1 (Sand World) is like a giant hourglass...unplug a hole and rocks and diamonds tumble like grains of sand. Work the right side first -- stay on the bottom right and grab any diamonds that tail to the right. When things stop tailing, move up to the top and pick up any remaining gems. Now, go back to the left and finish up.
  • Level 2-4 features a magical rock-to-diamond wail. Clear a space beneath the wall so the rocks you drop have a place to land or else they won't pass through the wall.
  • The password 635870 skips to the Ice World, 840137 goes right to the Sand World, and 840967 jumps to the Ocean World.

If you're looking for something that requires more thought than your run-of-the-mill shoot-em-up, Boulder Dash is the game for you. But be careful! Diamond mining can be very addictive!

reggie posted a review
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