If you were one of the very earliest adopters of the Linux OS around the year 1995, you might remember having been somewhat strapped for choice when it came to interactive entertainment. You might remember an early fountain of gaming tonic in a humble Boulder Dash emulator called Rocks'n'Diamonds. What you might not remember is the solemn pledge its aspiring creator Holger Schemel apparently made on his own honor and some of his dead relatives' not to let up supercharging it with reasons to make it your go-to call girl amongst any of its kin, bringing a whole slew of different games on the table alongside its own engine with all its unique elements. Let's do a written unpacking video to show exactly how phat those pickins have gotten by this time over 25 years into the future, with the game having reached the ridiculous version number 126.96.36.199.
While I decided to categorize Rocks'n'Diamonds (so Diamonds'n'Diamonds?) as a "reflex-oriented puzzle game" for the purposes of our collection, it spans both that box and the "brainteaser"/pure puzzler one simply by playing either step-by-step or in real time, as you wish, or even a combination of both. Its 1-step mode is like TASing, complete with saving it in any state, something which in general makes many challenges less frustrating by avoiding the pointless repetition of the same actions after slipping up late into a solve. By this token alone, RnD transcends any of the individual games it emulates (which also include Emerald Mines, Supaplex and Sokoban) but then there's also the 5 stars' worth of customization options strewn throughout its menus to suit every taste no matter how fastidious, which is something many of the other rereleases of those games can't compete with. You can adjust the game speed, turn the time limit off, eliminate all kinds of warning texts, replace the standard art, or even make some menu animations faster if you will.
The game itself is easy to modify, for which we have the testimonies of countless extra levels and level packs on the appropriate page (although actually a lot were simply imported). Creating and editing basic maps with the built-in editor is exceedingly simple while offering many luxury tools you ordinarily expect to see in a graphics editor like Paint, like automatically placing tiles in an arc shape should you find that of use. However, there are also multiple user-made variants that use more advanced editing to turn the game into something quite unalike itself: one premium sample of this is the level pack played through in this top-tier TAS by SadisticMystic. Aside from a spitting snake chomping on apples that make it larger or smaller like pills in Wonderland, and stones pulled in different directions by gravity, it has spreading fire, soccer balls, and enemies with diabolical AI. The same author has also managed to create two decent 2D Zelda -style games, which probably represent the greatest departure from the norm.
The downside to having so much choice is you might feel a bit overwhelmed. When you launch this thing, you wonder aloud if it isn't secretly a flight simulator for how stupid you will feel staring at the many menu screens. Luckily, most of the settings are for hipsters and in order for average Joe to get into the action, all you need is the basic controls: left-CTRL to "snap" adjacent tiles and right-CTRL to drop bombs. That's all you need for diving into the two provided tutorial level packs that introduce almost all the original enemies and elements. Now there are also plans to implement a description of each menu listing inside the game itself, which is really called-for. Aside from that, you may feel some of the options are a little bit strange, such as having a "handicap" that stops you from skipping levels but you can switch it off completely or make it let you skip levels despite it as hidden option C. Sound strange? It's a callback to the same feature of some of the games this one is inspired by. This kind of game isn't for everyone and so more casual fans such as myself would probably be aghast to find himself having to complete every level in order. There are also small issues with the controls that I hope will eventually be remediated. If you want to try to speedrun or score run the game (or just don't feel happy waiting for things to happen outside your control), you'll possibly be put off by the RNG inherent in the way many enemies work in the game's own engine.
So all in all, if you already know you're into games like this, falling rocks and collectable "rocks" and all, no doubt you'll appreciate the great variety of challenges that await you in Rocks'n'Diamonds. If you don't like something, you have the privilege of getting to suggest improvements on a forum that's still actively maintained today, with a chance your ideas will make the cut. Two thumbs way up!
Reviewed by: LotBlind