You'd have to be well into adulthood to remember the original Boulder Dash, which debuted on machines like the Commodore 64 in 1984 and then hit US arcades a year later. But whether or not you can recall the first one (or were even alive for its release), you'll soon get to try out a modernized version called Boulder Dash: Rocks! on both the PSP and Nintendo DS. We got a chance to look at the DS version recently to see how the series' hero, Rockford, has made the transition to current hardware.
The core gameplay here is identical to that of the original Boulder Dash. You'll move Rockford around a series of stages, attempting to capture a minimum number of diamonds in each level to reveal the exit and move on to the next area. You'll have to move quickly to avoid the boulders of the game's title, though, since picking up a gem with a boulder on top of it will cause the rock to fall on you after a brief moment. Sounds easy, sure, but later levels will become much more complicated, with trickier boulder formations and enemies standing between you and the acquisition of gems. As in the previous games, you'll be able to push boulders around creatively to block off or even crush enemies, and the developer has also added a zapper weapon with multiple kinds of ammo that you can pick up in some levels. One weapon type we saw let Rockford use a magnet to pull boulders toward him, even from offscreen.
Rocks! will feature a number of gameplay modes, starting with the primary single-player game, planet tour. This will take you through four visually distinctive worlds, each with 20 levels that become progressively tougher. Each planet has its own theme--jungle, lava, water, and the ghoulish netherworld--to keep things looking interesting. Then there's the route race mode, which will offer 35 of its own levels. This one's a little more strategic, since you won't control Rockford directly with the D pad. Instead, you'll use the stylus to plot out your route through a given level, and then you'll hit the onscreen play button to set him in motion to see if you planned out all of your moves properly to get him to the exit without being crushed. Finally, the game will contain a two-player mode called double bash, although with only one cart on hand, we weren't able to try that out just yet.
From what we played so far, Boulder Dash: Rocks! looks like a solid update to the arcade-style classic, since it adds a few new mechanics that don't get in the way of the core action that defined the original. The game's also gotten a nice visual makeover, with Rockford and friends taking on a delightful, cutesy style that's certainly more appealing than their blocky, pixelated former selves. The game is due out on both the DS and PSP in November, so look for more in the coming weeks.