Boulder Dash Deluxe is a bit of an odd release considering Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary was released a year ago. Using the same engine, gameplay, and overall presentation, Boulder Dash Deluxe is essentially a $15 expansion pack to the 30th Anniversary despite being two titles individually released.
If you never played Boulder Dash before, you play as an underground digger on a quest to collect gems and make it to the exit without getting crushed by, you guessed it, boulders. Digging below these deadly rocks will cause them to fall. If planned correctly, they can kill the mindless enemies that pace back and forth just like in Namco’s Dig Dug, the other classic digging sim. If planned carelessly, they can kill you, or worse yet, trap you with no escape. If trapped, the player needs to press start, then navigate to the restart button; why an instant restart featured wasn’t mapped to single button press is nothing short of inconsiderate design.
The good news is, there are a ton of levels to complete if you have the tenacity to complete them all. On top of that, there are many things to unlock from the main menu. Most are worthless cosmetic changes but finding certain treasure can unlock enhanced abilities like moving with enhanced speed. The bad news is, all the problems found in the 30th Anniversary have not been corrected here with the biggest issue being the loose control. Despite levels being grid/tile based, it is actually more accurate to use the analog stick than the d-pad. The problem is, it is easy to get caught between two tiles, resulting in inaccurate movement. Sometimes you will clear the tile on the right, but sometimes you will cut through the tile below depending on the frame of animation. The inconsistency is the biggest flaw and results in more accidental deaths than any of the pattern-heavy enemies.
As bad as the control scheme is, it does get a little better with some time although it is never alleviated. Even if the player has the ability to defeat the frustrating controls through practice, the unbearable soundtrack and sound effects will wear the player down. For some reason, the developers thought it was a good idea to trigger the most annoying sound effects when you complete a stage and when you die, the two things you do most often. The audio quality is so poor is makes the rest of the game unplayable. The only thing grosser than the audio department is actually the disgusting character models. Again, the developers thought it was a good idea to make the main character have bug eyes and a derp face which is very unappealing.
Even with the newly designed levels made by the original creator, Boulder Dash deserves better. Sure there is a ton of content but with the presentation and controls in the poor state that they are, why would anyone want to? Ranking the players performance with a three-star grade might sound good on paper but actually hinders the enjoyment since the player needs to play well to unlock the next batch of stages. Why can’t all the stages just be available, especially since there are no online leaderboards or anything to keep the player honest? It is difficult to tell if these were all intentionally poor design choices or if the development budget was low. Either way, it is a bummer than a series with this much history has been allowed to be crushed by boulders and left to rot in a sandy, dimly lit cave.
Also available on PC and Nintendo Switch.