Please mind the deadly boulder on top of that bush.
In Boulder Dash Rocks, as in any Boulder Dash game, you instantly learn to be wary of the bushes you wander through – especially if they support a boulder above them. These boulders often come tumbling down upon your head, easily becoming the most common cause of death. Alternatively, monsters eat you, a set of spikes crushes you, or you simply get blown up by dynamite you ignited yourself.
Fortunately, the game does a great job of easing you into its mechanics. Each level presents you with a grid-based area. In the first levels, these areas are typically very small, primarily filled with harmless dirt patches and purple diamonds, some of which have to be collected for an exit door to materialise. It grants you access to the next level, in which more boulders may appear. Now you’re forced to think more carefully about your actions when moving about. Not only is the risk of getting crushed greater, but you can also become trapped when an avalanche of boulders suddenly blocks your way forward. Later on, roaming monsters, one-way trap doors, colored keys, fire hydrants, and stricter time limits are introduced, complicating the action even further. The learning curve is commendably thought out, as you gradually get acquainted with the various hazards throughout the levels.
The controls contribute further to the high accessibility level of the game. Only when digging or shooting a weapon, which you acquire later in the game, is a button press needed. Meanwhile, all other actions, such as igniting dynamite or pushing boulders onto enemies, require no buttons at all. Rather, they automatically get triggered simply by walking around with the D-pad. The simple control scheme cleverly allows you to focus on the puzzles at hand rather than wrestle with the controls.
The level structure of the single-player game lends itself very well to the handheld medium, as you can quickly jump in and out of a game session. The levels, of which there are plenty, are spread out over four worlds, each with its own theme, ranging from lush jungles and water environments to gloomy lava and netherworld structures. Even though the levels in the latter worlds present considerably larger areas to explore, they are always over within a couple of minutes.
While these latter levels throw plenty of challenges towards the player, the action does begin to feel a little repetitive at this point. Never does your objective deviate from collecting diamonds and finding exits. While your means to these ends differ along the way, it would have been more interesting had the developers at 10Tacle Studios been a little more creative with the objectives.
In addition to the single-player game, there is also a rather basic multi-card mode in which you race a friend, a self-explanatory Time Trial Mode, and a Route Race Mode. Here, new levels need to be conquered with a completely different control scheme. Akin to the multiplayer game in Phantom Hourglass, you draw your way through the level on the touch screen, while trying to take every threat into consideration. While this mode represents an interesting alternative playing style, as it rewards your forward-thinking skills, it doesn’t quite deliver the same sense of excitement as the main game. Along with these modes, Wi-Fi multiplayer, a single-card mode and a level editor would have really bolstered the longevity of the game, but, sadly, they are nowhere to be found.
All in all, Boulder Dash Rocks successfully combines arcade action with enticing puzzle elements without looking or sounding particularly good. Even though new traps, weapons, and modes make their appearance, the core gameplay of the franchise remains largely untouched. Nothing groundbreaking or devastating has been added – a fact that will probably please fans and leave others wanting a bit more.