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Download Games Roundup

Jamestown! BoulderDash! Anima! Flip! Qix!

This week is one of those where everyone's gazing wistfully to the past for inspiration, but with contrasting results.

If Mighty Flip Champs, Boulder Dash XL and Jamestown are anything to go by, the best idea is not to be a slave to the past, but to take the elements that made everyone get excited in the first place and sympathetically embellish them.

On the other end of the scale you end up with pathetic ports like Qix, or games like Anima which are so far behind the standard of the game they're trying to ape that they come across like dribbling amateurs.

As Nick Lowe observed (possibly after playing late 1970s video games), you have to be cruel to be kind.

Boulder Dash XL

Some games were born ugly, and that's fine; we love them just the way they are.

In some respects, the fact that Boulder Dash is a grim mass of pixelated browns and greys has always been part of its charm, because the lock-tight level design and game mechanics transcended such piffling issues.

27 years on, it shouldn't be possible to continue to be so visually objectionable. The technical limitations no longer exist, but somehow developer Catnip manages to (inadvertently) keep the spirit of artistic haplessness alive with this latest attempt to reboot the series.

With a colour scheme that's currently illegal in 37 countries, you'll have to take a deep breath and adopt your most calm and reasoned persona to get beyond the vandalism perpetrated. It doesn't help, either, that the audio also appears to be designed to cause maximum distress to entities living or dead.

Dash dandy.

But despite the apparent disregard for anything approaching style, this new XL version emerges from the wreckage like Shane McGowan after a four-year bender.

If you've never been acquainted with Rockford and co., here's the deal: as with other subterranean shenanigans, your goal is to tunnel your way through caverns, scoop up gems, avoid the loose boulders and hightail it to the exit. Simple.

Boulder Dash XL mainly succeeds through good old-fashioned level design, rather than bolting on tiresome gimmicks or meddling too much with the formula.

It also peddles a nice line in variety, with several modes to get your teeth into: a traditional campaign-style progression alongside fiendish puzzle interpretations and an unexpectedly brilliant retro mode.

The latter should keep the hardcore content all on its own, with the old visuals faithfully interpreted (albeit with a shifting 3D perspective), along with some levels you might remember from the olden days.

Despite the initial audio-visual horror, Boulder Dash XL ends up being far greater than the sum of its parts. This is one ugly ducking you won't be ashamed to spend time with.


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