Boulder Dash

by Dalali Software Ltd, Peter Liepa, Chris Gray
Front Runner
Crash Issue 12, Christmas Special 1984/85   (1984-12-13)   page(s) 74,75

Producer: Front Runner
Memory Required: 48K
Retail Price: £7.95
Language: Machine code

Front Runner, the software marketing organisation of K-Tel, has here released an American program which has been converted for the Spectrum. It was originally a big hit in the States for First Star for the Atari. It is also a very unusual game, that relies on a simple concept with complex ramifications.

You play the starring role of Rockford, a gem collector in a series of 16 underground caverns, lettered A to P. You can elect to play from caves A, E, I or M on difficulty levels 1 to 3, or from A only on levels 4 and 5. Difficulty reflects on the number of jewels to be collected and the time limit allowed.

The basic game play is not unlike those 'Digger' games where you burrow through the earth dropping boulders on nasties, but that puts it all too simply. There are a great many combinations available between all the screens which uses elements of boulders, earth which can be removed, gems and several types of nasty which chase you. Removing the earth from under a boulder will cause it to fall down, but one boulder stacked on top of another will also topple off, so you must take great care, and of course this immediately adds a strategic element to the game. On one screen you have to create space for an amoeba to grow, then release a load of butterflies from a lower portion of the cave which turn to gem stones when they meet the amoebae - the problem being that the butterflies kill Rockford. This gives a simple example of what the game is like.

Each cave is several times larger than the screen playing area and the screen automatically scrolls to keep pace with Rockford as he moves about, shovelling earth and moving boulders. Additionally there are four short interactive puzzles which you are entitled to play after completing caves D, H, L and P.


Control keys: E, O/F, K up/down, M, X/SYM, C left/right, N, V or B to fire, or use the cursors and 0
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair 2, Protek, AGF, Fuller
Keyboard play: responsive, plenty of options
Use of colour: excellent, very unusual combinations
Graphics: unusual, generally excellent
Sound: excellent
Skill levels: 5
Lives: 3
Screens: 16

What a strange game this is at first, with no obvious connection to anything else I've ever seen. The idea is totally and completely original - a weird sense of strategy, forward planning and arcade skill are the qualities needed to play this game. If you don't possess one of these skills, then forget it. I found Boulder Dash immensely enjoyable, not because of its originality and weird sense of humour, but because of its compulsive playing ideas. It's a long time since I've played a game as absorbing as this. You tend to get obsessed with it. Graphics are different, to say the least, bright and detailed. Sound is continuous, with plenty of spot effects. An incredibly addictive game and well worth buying. Brill!

Boulder Dash is aptly named! At first sight it looks like a number of other digging games and the graphics don't immediately strike you as extra special. Playing the game convinces otherwise. Within minutes I was sucked into it and hours went by. Boulder Dash is a brilliant program with a mean streak a mile wide in it. There is one particular room ("I" I think) which had me working for almost two hours without a break to beat its cruel sense of humour. Basically you release a piece of earth from a hole on top of a large chamber and for the next few seconds gems and boulders cascade down in a very realistic fashion. It is then a case of picking your way round to get at the gems without being squashed by a boulder. Very clever, amazingly, dangerously addictive, Boulder Dash should keep everyone going for ages and ages.

This amazing game is so simple, it's ridiculous! Yet once started it's impossible to leave it. Rockford is amusingly animated, tapping his foot in boredom if you keep him standing still for too long, eyes flicking nervously, as well they might with all that weight of stone above his head! The movement of boulders and gems is so logical, when huge stacks of them fall that it can be a joy to watch. With the five skill levels and 16 screens to play through, this game represents value even for the slightly high price, and I can recommend it to anyone. It's excellent and tremendously compelling to play.

Use of Computer: 91%
Graphics: 90%
Playability: 98%
Getting Started: 89%
Addictive Qualities: 98%
Value For Money: 90%
Overall: 93%

Summary: General rating: Highly addictive and playable, original and good value, highly recommended.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 22, October 1987   page(s) 75

Time can be cruel to even the most innovative of games (look at Knight Lore or Sabre Wulf!), but not in the case of these marvellous First Star boulderamas. The idea's simple, the execution's brilliant. Move Rockford around the grid collecting diamonds and avoid being crushed by boulders that attempt to splatter you as you pass. You'll also have to block growing amoebas, transform butterflies and outmanoeuvre fireflies. Terminally addictive.

Overall: 8/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 84, December 1992   page(s) 11

A classic in every sense of the word except 'large grazing mammal of the lower Azures' because that's wrong. Boulder Dash is one of the very few home 'puter games to make it into the arcades. First Star, the American company behind the game, released at least three sequels, but I do believe I'm right in saying only Boulder Dash and Boulder Dash 4 made it onto the Speccy. You play Rockford, a thieving spelunker out to scour sixteen of valuable diamonds. Pitted against you a score of mutant butterflies, two score of mutant fireflies, a massively hugely enormously gargantuan wibblingly big number of amoebae and Isaac Newton's baby. (He means gravity. Ed)

Okay, the graphics are basic (He means crap. Ed) and admittedly the sound is uninspired (Crap! Ed) but the gameplay is magnificent. (Curses. Ed) The scrolling caves are about sixteen screens square (Alliteration! Ed) and packed with incident. (Wheee! Ed) Excuse me a moment. (Help! I've been imprisoned in some curly brackets. Ed}

That's better. Anyway, it's a very mentally taxing game, requiring a fine grasp of physics to determine exactly whether you'll be able to nip into this area, set off a controlled rockfall and expose those diamonds without getting caught by the patrolling firefly. Nastily, it's also a very fast game - once those butterflies get on your trail they'll hound you mercilessly, and it's entirely possible to run faster than the scrolling, and so flounder in the dark while the screen catches up with you. And there's a time limit. Yikes! If you don't mind dated graphics and like your puzzle games very tough indeed, I'd recommend this 'un wholeheartedly. It doesn't push the Speccy in terms of machine use, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a game with more playability per inch. And it's educational as well! (Sort of.)

Overall: 86%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash - Crashback Issue 38, March 1987   (1987-02-26)   page(s) 75

Use of Computer: 91%
Graphics: 90%
Playability: 98%
Getting Started: 89%
Addictive Qualities: 98%
Value for Money: 90%
Overall: 93%

Cute hero Rockford tunnels around 16 different underground mazes collecting gems as he goes. Boulders lie around, and problems are caused when the earth that supports them is tunnelled away - they tumble on Rockford unless he's quick. Nasties chase the hero, and they can only be killed by falling boulders.

"This amazing game is so simple it's ridiculous! Yet once started it's impossible to leave it. Rockford is amusingly animated, tapping his foot in boredom if you keep him standing still for too long, eyes flicking nervously - as well they might, with all that weight of stone above his head! The movement of boulder's and gems is so logical, when huge stacks of them fall it can be a joy to watch. With the five skill levels and 16 screens to play through, this game represents good value even for the slightly high price, and I can recommend it to anyone. It's excellent and tremendously compelling to play."

"When Boulder Dash first appeared in my games collection I couldn't play it enough: solving the puzzles contained in each screen was sometimes infuriating but always great fun. Originality and humour were probably its main points - never before had a game as funny as this been seen on the Spectrum. Today it is still just as compelling and playable, but seems to have lost a lot of its originality over the years. The ratings at the time were justified in being so high. Now, however, I think that they should all be put down by ten or fifteen percent.

Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 35, February 1985   page(s) 23

MUTANT diamonds, bone-crunching boulders, and deadly amoeba are just some of the ingredients which make up Boulder Dash.

You play the part of Rockford, an intrepid explorer who has just got lost in a string of underground caverns. Suddenly he notices something glinting in the darkness. Rushing over he picks it up and a boulder crashes down from above. Splat!

The idea is to guide Rockford through each of the caverns, collecting all the diamonds, in a set time limit which will gain him entry to the next cave. It can be tricky as each diamond lurks beneath a precariously balanced boulder - so look out.

In each successive cavern, the time limit is shorter and the tasks harder, diamonds when released will turn into poisonous butterflies, deadly amoeba has to be contained by dislodging boulders to form dams and you have to work out how to get past the fireflies, guardians of the jewels.

Boulder Dash was originally released in the States by First Star for the Atari 800. It was an instant hit and has been converted to the Commodore 64 and the licence bought by an arcade manufacturer.

According to Front Runner, Boulder Dash has been described as "one of the finest examples of Spectrum programming ever". Balderdash! Slow and jerky movement dog Rockford's every step making it difficult to pass through each cave within the time limit specified.

Although there are many features in the game including four interactive puzzles and five difficulty levels to each of the 16 caves your excitement can quickly turn to frustration when time and time again, Rockford is bombarded by boulders.

Clare Edgeley

Memory: 48K
Price: £7.95
Joystick: Kempston, Protek, AGF, Sinclair

Gilbert Factor: 5/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 40, February 1985   page(s) 42

MACHINE: Spectrum/keyboard or joystick
SUPPLIER: Front Runner
PRICE: £7.95

We've already gone into fits of ecstasy about Boulder Dash on the 64. Now we're about to do the same for the Spectrum version is great game from Front Runner, the Storm Warrior people.

The Spectrum version features Rockford in all his glory. It has the 16 Boulder Dash caves, packed with boulders, gems and other nasties. Each cave has five difficulty levels making Boulder Dash not just one game but about 80!

The object of the game is to help Rockford search through the caves in search of gems. Each cave has a fixed target of gems for Rockford to find and there's a time limit on his search too.

Once he's collected the required number of gems, Rockford has to find the exit to the next cave - which only appears once he's reached the target number of jewels. Each cave is different and features odd things like amoeba, butterflies, fireflies and other obstacles.

You have master the "physics" of the game - discovering just how those rocks roll and fall - to collect the gems. You also have to be good at working out patterns and strategies to be in the right place at the right time.

The programmer has made a brave attempt at converting the sounds of the original, music, falling rocks and jewels. The graphics are adequate - but the game is spoiled somewhat by the slow screen scrolling. Rockford can dash off the screen while the rest of the graphics are trying to catch up!

This is annoying - but doesn't detract from the incredible playability of this game. Boulder Dash is terribly addictive - don't start playing if you've got anything else to do that day. If it's not a number one hit I'll eat my joystick! Rush out and get it, you won't regret it.

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Value: 9/10
Playability: 10/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Big K Issue 11, February 1985   page(s) 23


MAKER: Front Runner
FORMAT: cassette
PRICE: £7.95

An ex-friend of mine has a Commodore 64 and the only thing I miss about not being his friend is that I can't play Boulder Dash no more. Well that's all changed. No, ex-friend hasn't become friend again but Boulder Dash has become a Spectrum game. My initial reaction was pure joy but then I thought of what the 64 could do and then what the Spectrum couldn't do. I'm surprised I even bothered to load it in. You see Boulder Dash heavily relies on quick scrolling, lots of pretty colours and neato music all of which the Spectrum isn't really known for. Well the game loaded and is was all there. Boy, was I shocked.

A few of you out there may be confused. You may not have heard of Boulder Dash. In that case you've probably lived in a shoebox the last six months. Still, for all you hermits here's a scenario description. Rockford has to run about various caves to collect jewels so he can move onto the next cave. It's not really as simple as that since there are boulders all over the gaff supported by gunge which Rockford can obliterate. It's all very difficult to explain but much easier to play. Having eighty possible levels is nice on any game but since what you have to accomplish on each screen is so varied the only way you'd be able to appreciate it is to play it.

What makes Boulder Dash such a hit for me is that it's so addictive. In all honesty I can say this is the best game, to date, for the Spectrum. Which isn't bad going since a week ago I would've said it was really Spectrum fodder.

Boulder Dash is a definite must if you use a Spectrum so I'm afraid it's fork out the money time again folks.

Graphics: 3/3
Playability: 3/3
Addictiveness: 3/3
Overall: 3/3

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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