Boulder Dash-XL is a reboot of a long-running action/puzzle series originally released in 1984 on 8-bit Atari computers. In Boulder Dash, you'll make your way through caves to collect the required amount of diamonds to open an exit and reach it before a timer runs out. Enemies, traps, and, of course, boulders all add to the difficulty of finding a way to escape. Boulder Dash features online leaderboards and five different modes, including a Retro mode for those nostalgic for the 8-bit era.
The game plays like a mix of Dig Dug and Tetris, but with a time limit. You create a path to follow underground that can lead to enemies being crushed by large rocks (Dig Dug), but in order to get what you need and where you want to go you have to carefully figure out your path and the consequences of your movements (Tetris) lest you become overwhelmed.
Throw in the time limit you're given to complete levels (used most effectively in the game's main mode, Arcade) and you're forced to not just get to the end, but to think quickly to do so. While this can lead to some repetition, I never felt frustrated by it. In fact, it led to playing levels over and over with greater resolve because I knew I was so close to completing them.
What makes this game most enjoyable is that there's more to Boulder Dash-XL than meets the eye. At first glance, it's a simple puzzle game with straightforward goals. But for those who are up to it, there are challenges to be had. Not only in each individual level (the goal to get an exit to open is the bare minimum required) but also in some of the game's more thought-provoking modes (Puzzle mode especially).
However, while this latest addition to the Boulder Dash series does a good job of honouring its past, when it comes to being a next-gen reboot this iteration doesn't go far enough. Instead of making a modern version of an old classic ala Pac-Man Championship Edition or Galaga Legions, gamers are pretty much just given the same game from 30 years ago with a fresh coat of paint.
There is no local or online multiplayer, which is a shame. A puzzle title like this would have been perfect to play with friends, especially when the game has two cute protagonists in Rockford and Crystal. The visual presentation is pedestrian, and while it's a significant improvement from its 8-bit roots, the graphics seem better suited for a WiiWare title than an XBLA release. I also wish Rockford and Crystal had been given more personality. Aside from their names and appearance they're the same robot. Some unique abilities for each would have given them some character.