BoulderDäsh


Title		BoulderDäsh
Game Type	Puzzle
Players		1-6
Compatibility	OS2/3 only
Submission	Joona Palaste (palaste@cc.helsinki.fi) Profiled Reviewer

Review
If you want to make a list of the most famous computer games in the
1980's, you can't leave Boulder Dash unmentioned. Released in 1984 by
First Star, Boulder Dash introduced the cute little character Rockford,
who had to search for diamonds in a series of caves made of rectangular
blocks.
  Many dangers threatened poor Rockford, such as falling stones, deadly
fireflies and butterflies, and even the ever-growing amoeba. All this was
against a strict time limit. The game and its many sequels, which were
basically the same with new caves, kept players hooked for months, even
years.
  Boulder Dash has lately spawned a multitude of Public Domain and
ShareWare clones on different computers such as the Amiga and the PC. Some
of them have tried to remain faithful to the original, some have gone on
to invent new additions and twists to the game. BoulderDäsh (pronounced, I
think, "Boulder Desh"), is one of those that remain faithful to the
original Boulder Dash. Even though the game itself is still the same as
fifteen years ago, BoulderDäsh improves the presentation a great deal.
  BoulderDäsh is the brainchild of a German Amiga-fan called Guido
Mersmann. He originally wrote it on his Amiga 500 way back in 1987, and
kept improving it almost constantly. I am reviewing version 4.13, released
in November 1997.
  As stated before, the actual gameplay of BoulderDäsh is 100% identical
to the original Boulder Dash. You are given control of a cute little chap
called Rockford. Steered with your joystick, Rockford tunnels through
loose ground in a series of caves, collecting valuable diamonds and then
making his way to the exit. To make the task more difficult, there are
rocks which fall through empty space and crush mostly anything they land
on. Fireflies and butterflies roam the tunnels, blowing Rockford to pieces
on contact. Amoebae grow and grow, and can block out Rockford's path if he
is not careful.
  Although all this can seem confusing at first, there is one valuable
thing successful players of Boulder Dash (and BoulderDäsh) must learn:
almost nothing happens at random. Everything except the amoebae and slime
molds follow simple patterns, which are quickly learnt. This information
proves valuable when you have to predict where a group of fireflies is
going to go next, for example.
  As an experienced games player, I can tell you that randomness has no
place in platform games or similar action games. One of my all-time
favourite Amiga platform games is Twinworld by Ubi Soft, and not least
because the bonus items left behind by baddies are fixed, not random like
in other platform games. But I digress - more on Twinworld will follow in
my review of that game.
  Enough about Boulder Dash. What makes BoulderDäsh so special among the
countless Boulder Dash clones? For a start, it's pretty huge. And by huge,
I don't mean fancy, I mean thorough. You won't see super-highres
true-colour pictures and hear Midi-quality music here, or, God forbid, see
digitised video.
  What BoulderDäsh has instead is content. Every single cave ever released
by First Star is included, and that makes hundreds of caves. As if that
were not enough, there are plenty of caves written by third parties, even
enthuastic BoulderDäsh fans. That's more than enough to keep you going for
months, and should you ever get tired, there's an included construction
kit so you can make your own caves. Registered users even get a tool for
converting Commodore 64 "Boulder Dash Construction Kit" files into
BoulderDäsh files.
  In spite of the form-versus-content debate, computer games these days
really need good graphics. And this is one area where BoulderDäsh exceeds
all exceptions. The quality of the graphics in BoulderDäsh is very good,
but it's not limited to that. It can easily be improved to excellent,
theoretically to perfect. This is because BoulderDäsh doesn't have a fixed
graphical style like so many other games, but instead it can load
graphical styles from disk as IFF files. There's nothing stopping you from
drawing your own styles, but if you can't draw, you can select from a
whole host of ready-made ones drawn by a skillful selection of artists
including Timo Hegemann, Thomas Richter and (ahem) me.
  As well as the graphics, almost everything else in BoulderDäsh's
appearance is user-configurable. You can design your own caves, draw your
own graphics, compose your own music, sample your own sounds, typeset your
own font and paint your own intro picture. All the files you create are
yours to distribute, and if you want, you can send them to Guido for
inclusion in the next version of BoulderDäsh. That's the true beauty of
ShareWare games that commercial games can never achieve: total audience
participation. If you feel that something can be improved, you can get it
improved.
  Even though BoulderDäsh is basically just another Boulder Dash clone, it
is an excellent one. The massive amount of included data makes it very
entertaining. Of course, though, a perfect computer game doesn't exist,
and BoulderDäsh is not without its disadvantages. Because of technical
limitations, it won't even start on OS 1.x computers. Also, the graphics
are limited to 8 colours, and have a fixed block size, so you can't let
your imagination loose as much as you could have. (You can get 256 colours
with a graphics card, but not everyone has those!) Lastly, it would have
been nice to have some extra elements not included in the original Boulder
Dash.
  But these are just minor criticisms. Overall, BoulderDäsh is a truly
excellent game. The unregistered version is available on AmiNet for
absolutely nothing, so there's really no excuse whatsoever why you
shouldn't get it now and play it. Go ahead, you're bound to like it.




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