Have you ever dated someone who seemed like the perfect match, a person who checked off all your initial priority boxes yet, by the end of the evening, left a slightly empty pit in your stomach? I truly wanted to fall madly in like with Boulder Dash-XL, and since I'm a Gen X'er I totally have affection for games that came out in the '80s. With its recent release as an iOS title, Boulder Dash-XL should have been a snug fit, but it just doesn't seal the deal.
Since it's the holiday season, let's look at what makes the game such a promising download. You start the game with the ability to choose between two robots (Crystal and Rockford), before digging through caves for gems. Your main enemies are boulders that either block your path to the gems or are rolling your way to crush you to death. Monsters also pop up in later rounds, and as long as you strategically manipulate your way around the caves, you can kill them with boulders, collect the necessary gems, and head to the next cave.
There are five different ways of playing the game, and fans of the 8-bit world can move boulders and dig in Retro Mode. If you're a timing freak, you can race against the clock entering Arcade Mode. My favorite is Puzzle Mode since there are no time limits in exploring the caves. Under this section, simply collect as many gems as possible, avoid getting killed, and find the nearest exit. The variety of styles keeps Boulder Dash-XL off the boring train for quite a spell, and its high level of playability almost got me hook, line, and sinker.
With all the fun to be had with Boulder Dash-XL, there is one glaring problem which is downright annoying. Although you touch and tap your screen to navigate your robot, the controls are far from perfect. Learning how to move your gem collector is easy enough; there is a directional pad on the lower left of the screen, and to push away boulders simply touch the lower right hand portion of your device.
Simple controls doesn't guarantee a happy ending. I've died countless times attempting to move my robot away from danger but to no avail. Controlling the robot is far from a seamless process, and its slow reaction times in dealing with quick trigger actions is such a frustrating experience. During one level, I spent 10 minutes attempting a move which should have been perfected within the first try. Although I'm not the quickest of gunslingers when it comes to tapping my iPad, the level should have been completed if the controls weren't so inferior. You are also given the option to use directional arrows to move your character around, and unfortunately that manner of controlling my robot was even worse.
Boulder Dash-XL is an entertaining action puzzler that unfortunately comes undone with its control issues. It's a huge flaw that I can occasionally overlook, but unfortunately the honeymoon period is over.