Boulder dash is a genre braking game. Original, simplistic, smooth and fast and highly addictive. Many years later, though I do not play games, I have much praise for this little beauty.
When released in the mid 80’s this game transformed the player’s interaction with the gaming environment from the passive push and play of Pacman to one where a player could alter the environment to achieve the desired outcome. Many years later players fell in love with games like Lemmings because of its innovative gameplay, but games like Boulderdash provided the evolutionary path for these later classics.
A basic synopsis of the game would be that the player moves a mining avatar through a fixed sized block matrix of dirt, boulders and creatures. The aim is to stay alive while avoiding a boulder dropping on you, dodging being eaten by a roaming creature or being trapped by a lava flow. All this must be done within a fixed time, before you run out of air, and while trying to get to your destination, while ensuring you don’t block off passage to your home with falling boulders.
Brain teasers include factors such as knowledge that some lava will kill you, while different coloured lava will continuously grow until it either engulfs the entire world, or if capped early enough will,
as it attempts to grow, become diamonds. Also some of the creatures can be used to your ends by being employed to block off lava or hold boulders in place so you can get to your destination.
The key defining factors of this game are the calculable behaviours of the entities, the lack of direct enemies (you don’t play to kill, but you may need to kill to live) and an interesting progression from basic challenges in the early stages of the game to example challenges that give you the answers you will need for later plays, and then complex challenges that employ both skill and clear thinking with speed.
Could I wax lyrical about Boulderdash, well yes! You can have all the pixels per second you like with the latest games consoles out there today but really if all your controls are limited to button presses it makes sense that the world your character inhabits be limited as well. And by using these limitations the writers of this classic have been able to provide a game speed that was unsurpassable.
Today I got my nephew to play Boulderdash. He has a PS3 and a Wii. Guess what? He had never seen anything like it and has ditched his high end mega pixel games to play Boudlerdash on a C64 emulator.
How can that be?