Boulder Dash XL was developed Catnip Games and published by Kalypso Media. It was released July 13, 2011 and retails for 800 MSP. A copy of the game was supplied for review purposes.

If the media has taught us anything recently it’s that mining is a difficult and dangerous job. Fortunately Boulder Dash XL gives us a happy look into the future were mining is done by cute little robots. Robots Rockford and Crystal fearlessly dash into any mining situation to collect as many diamonds as possible and escape before time runs out.

The whole goal of the game is to collect the loot and get out. The game progresses on stage by stage basis with over 140 levels to choose from. The action is fast and difficult at times, but it is great old school fun as well. And to add to that old school fun is a retro mode, complete with classic graphics.

Here’s what we liked:

Solid old school gameplay – The gameplay in Boulder Dash XL is simple but effective. Each stage is fairly small and won’t take more than two or three minutes to complete. In each stage the goal is to collect as many diamonds as possible as quickly as possible. Collect them all and you get a bonus at the end of the stage. There are enemies to either avoid or destroy and lots of cave-ins to handle. Each stage has to be handled with both speed and caution. The time limits are fairly strict on some stages but going straight forward is likely to get you killed. This leads to a fair amount of trial and error, but the game never feels cheap. Rather it challenges you to find the best solution.

Diverse game modes – Arcade mode, Puzzle mode, and Retro mode are the three main offerings. Arcade mode consists of 100 stages steadily increasing in difficulty and complexity. The goal is to get the highest score possible. Each stage’s score compiles with the others to form your total game score. Puzzle mode consists of 25 separate puzzles to complete. In this mode there is no time limit or enemies to deal with. The goal is simply to collect all of the diamonds and get to the end. It’s actually a great way to learn the mechanics of the game in a no stress environment. The puzzles are a lot of fun as well. The final offering, Retro mode, really cranks up the difficulty. It adds a new rule where falling diamonds will kill you as well. The graphics are pure 8-bit in their look and it works great. Those looking for a real challenge will find it in retro mode.

Serious challenge – Speaking of challenge, Boulder Dash XL has plenty to offer. But it manages to bring the challenge without being frustrating or annoying. Since the levels themselves are so short restarting isn’t that big of a deal. Few games can be brutally challenging and fun at the same time but this one does just that.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Strange save system – Reports have been popping up that the game does not save properly. That’s not entirely true. But we had some of our progress erased as well so there is definitely an issue. To ensure that all progress is saved, back out of the game via your in game menu and then return to the dashboard via the game’s main menu option. Never just turn the game off without following those steps. Following these steps we never had any problems. Gamers these days expect auto save at all times. Not having that seems very strange indeed.

No user created contentBoulder Dash XL is the perfect game to include a level editor in. Not having one is a real shame because we can only imagine the awesome stages that gamers would have created. We’re hoping one might be added, but that is likely hoping against hope.

Lack of personalityBoulder Dash XL clearly drew the short straw being released right alongside Ms. Splosion Man. While that’s likely to hurt the game’s sales it brings a more interesting comparison to the table. In terms of gameplay they are very different but compare very well. Boulder Dash XL is very fun and challenging as is Ms. Splosion Man, but in terms of personality it simply can’t compete. We all say that only gameplay matters but when two games are both great personality is important. We wish it had a bit more attitude and edge.

Boulder Dash XL is a great game. Odd quirks aside, it does everything it sets out to do very well. Gamers would do well to not overlook it in favor of more visible releases. 800 MSP is an excellent value for this game. It is also worth noting that this is a perfect game to play for a few minutes in between other gaming sessions.

Score: Buy It