Boulder Dash Rocks—do you have the rocks to succeed?

Posted: September 7, 2009 in Adventure, Puzzle

Most adventure games worth their salt place the hero in harm’s way whether it’s falling boulders and death-inducing booby traps or the typical not-of-this world creatures. Of course, there’s also the reward in terms of hidden treasure that serves as the motivation. That pretty much sums up Boulder Dash Rocks, where the goal is simple, but completing it is far from the case. And, what you have is the makings of a solid puzzler that will frustrate, entertain, and intellectually test you all wrapped up into one.

Our hero is a little blue guy by the name of Rockford who’s tasked with collecting diamonds and gems within a limited time period. The game consists of two play modes: Planet Tour and Time Trails. Planet Tour consists of 84 mazes in 4 different worlds—Jungle, Lava, Water and Netherworld—as well as 4 boss battles. Time Trials offers a set of 20 puzzles where it’s a race against the clock with the potential to earn gold, silver and bronze awards. This is a puzzler which means nothing is as straightforward as you would think, and improvising is really not the best strategy. In fact, if you’re to succeed in Boulder Dash Rocks, having a keen eye for detail is essential as your planning abilities will be tested.

One of things that I really like about the game is presentation, and visually, the mazes are colorful and for the most part, well thought out and potentially challenging. This is one of those games that should appeal to the young and the young at heart because it looks childish in a good way. The music track only adds to the lighthearted feel which is almost strange since Rockford is on the verge of getting crushed or pulverized at any given time.

Boulder Dash Rocks has two control options—d-pad and swipe—which both work extremely well. Experimenting with both, I initially preferred the swipe controls, and then I gradually migrated to the d-pad option which suits me just fine. Because the game requires a certain level of planning, Boulder Dash Rocks has some nice touches including functionality to pan the game screen and pinch zoom in/out, both of which are useful and very responsive on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0. The game is well-suited for the casual and even inexperienced player as boulders tend to shake for a few seconds before actually tumbling down, and enemy creatures have a one-track mind meaning they follow a set course so no surprises.

Rockford has various talents including the ability to dig dirt, push and grab rocks, and even withstand a few knocks and bruises before succumbing to the little blue place in the sky and forcing you to restart the level. The mazes have different characteristics that can either help or hinder Rockford including teleportals that transport Rockford from one location to another, one-way doors which can lead to additional pathways or traps, and obstacles such as boulders, immovable stones, skulls, sticky spiderwebs, and health depleting rays. On the flip side, Rockford will come across various power ups including dynamite for blowing away walls (this can also hurt Rockford if he’s too close to an explosion), speed boost when he needs a little more zip, and ammo stations for recharging his zapper gun. In regards to ammo, 4 different types exist including the ability to blast away boulders or drag them up and away from a distance. Health packs are also available to rejuvenate Rockford for when he’s taken a bit too much pounding.

The fun is in the gameplay, and this is not a game where you will zip through the levels. There will be plenty of level re-plays, and in most cases, cause and effect is an applicable term. Rockford has ability to dig through certain things (sand, bushes, bone piles among others), and this could easily impact surrounding areas. Whatever form they come in depending on the world, boulders are the most common obstacle, and I’ve often found that not understanding the consequences can lead to blocked entrances forcing Rockford to look for an alternative route or worse case, no way to continue on with the maze. On that note, keep in mind that each level has a minimum number of gems that need to be collected before an exit appears. Depending on how you approach the maze, obstacles can prevent you from collecting the necessary number of gems. In certain mazes, appropriately colored keys must be retrieved in order to access locked areas, and those are never easy to collect.

Boulder Dash Rocks does have a flaw, and that’s in the lack of variety in the mazes. While there are 4 worlds, the elements more or less stay the same, with content only being skin deep. In some ways, I feel like the game could’ve been half as long and been just as fun with more content. Cosmetically speaking, the menus could use some sprucing up since they tend to be bland to fit more with the rest of the game in terms of liveliness, but that’s a minor issue.

Overall, Boulder Dash Rocks offers addictive gameplay within a well-presented package that should keep puzzlers engaged. The different worlds offer adequate variety, and the addition of a challenge mode provides plenty of replay value. The game will test your ability to think quickly and account for consequences, which is what a good puzzle game should do.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for puzzlers and platform gamers; while it is a little more forgiving for casual gamers, entertaining gameplay will still challenge you to the point of frustration)

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