Boulderdash by Andrew Davie

Boulderdash was a classic early 80s videogame. I remember seeing advertisements for it, but I don’t think I ever had a chance to play it. It was available on many platforms, and for some reason I think it was more popular on personal computers of the day (DOS, Apple ][, Commodore, Atari, Amiga) than it was on consoles.

Andrew Davie is a programming legend in the Atari homebrew scene. For the past year-plus, he has been developing a Boulderdash remake on the Atari 2600 that is incredible. It runs on a stock system, no special hardware mods needed, thanks to an ARM chip in the cartridge. That ARM chip is a significant power boost to the processing capabilities of the system, so really the console is just relaying controller input to the computer inside the cartridge, which uses the VCS’s Television Interface Adapter (TIA) chip to draw to the screen. The results are far beyond the normal capabilities of the 1977-vintage hardware. And the program does things that you have to see to believe. If you run this game next to a 2k launch title like Combat or Slot Racers, you wouldn’t believe that it’s running on the same exact hardware. It’s a 32kb ROM, as compared to the 2kb or 4kb of most Atari 2600 games.

Davie has announced through his website that he has obtained permission from the owners of the Boulderdash IP to release just 100 individually serialized copies of the game ROM will be produced, and they are not redistributable — this means that one may not legally obtain the ROM from anyone other than Andrew Davie, who is giving them away for free, but only for 100 lucky Atari fans. This is a must-have for an Atari collector.

It’s my hope that the Demo will be followed up by a full version of the game, hopefully in unlimited quantities. Nothing has been announced formally, but the “demo” label implies that there should be more to come. But it’s possible that the Demo may be all that he will be authorized to release.

The graphics are higher resolution than the 2600 is normally capable of displaying, very detailed, more objects on the screen, more colors, it has music, animation, parallax scrolling, asymmetrical playfields, everything that you would not expect to be possible with the stock Atari 2600 hardware. It’s literally incredible.

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