When other publishers are churning out the latest definitive version of a familiar format, Retrosouls always seems to be playing with that format a little to produce a wholly new type of game. The force behind Gravibots, Special Intergalactic Painter and Alter Ego now gives us a cross between Boulder Dash and Bomber Man: Tourmaline.
Most people know the Boulder Dash formula; it's an overhead maze game where every sprite is a 32x32 job, and you tunnel through blocks of earth, collecting the diamonds and trying to avoid the rocks, which will fall if not balanced on earth.
Even more people know of Bomber Man; even the modern(ish) system like the Nintendo DS have versions of this overhead maze, where you drop bombs to blow up patrolling nasties.
Put them together and you get Tourmaline; essentially Boulder Dash with bombs. You take control of "Bombford" (Boulder Dash featured a character called Rockford) and your task is, as you might expect, to collect up the diamonds from each level. Levels are several times the screen size and scroll up, down, left or right when you reach an appropriate area of the screen. The scrolling that does this is very jerky.
I presume, given the legendary coding skills of Denis Grachev, that this jerky scrolling is entirely intentional. Boulder Dash had the same; it's an affectionate nod to the original and done that way to please the fans of it. Indeed, it's quite odd how this jerky scrolling affects the dynamics of the Boulder Dash/Tourmaline experience. On most professional maze games, smooth scrolling is employed, keeping Rockford in the centre of the playing area. Employing this technique necessarily slows the game down. If you dispense with it and simply shift the screen 32 characters in any direction, you get an absolutely frantic gaming experience. Hence the name Boulder "Dash" - in Tourmaline too, you can race about the mazes at manic speed, unseating boulders, collecting diamonds, avoiding nasties and causing complete chaos.
Equipping your character with an infinite supply of bombs too also ups the ante. If Tourmaline were a puzzle game - that is, if you had to complete each screen a certain way to be assured of success - then allowing you to blast rocks to smithereens would, of course, totally counteract that logic. But Tourmaline isn't a puzzle game. Granted, it looks like one. But it's 100% arcade action. When you're dealing with patrolling nasties coming at you through that jerky scrolling, whilst rocks and diamonds rain down all around you and you need to blast patrolling monsters too, it takes the game to a whole new level.
Tourmaline is one of those games that, now it exists, will satisfy a thirst that Boulder Dash fans hitherto never knew they had. It's free, it's frighteningly addictive and yet another addition to Retrosouls' growing catalogue of tremendous Speccy games. Each game gives you five lives, and you'll need them.