Boulder Dash (A8)

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Boulder Dash
Boulder Dash - A8 - First Star Software.jpg
Platform: Atari 8-bit
Year: 1984
Developer: Peter Liepa

Boulder Dash on Atari 8-bit is the very first game in its own genre.

In 1982 or 1983, Chris Gray (then around 14 years old) wrote a game based on The Pit (ARC) in BASIC. He showed it Inhome Software, who liked it, but needed someone to translate it into 6502 machine code. Just then, professional programmer Peter Liepa wanted to get into games, asked Inhome what is in demand, and they connected him with Gray. However, Liepa found Gray's game stiff and short-lived, and Gray himself to have an opposing taste.

Liepa started writing a new game inspired by boulders and earth. After days, he finished the now-famous fake physics. The following six months, he thought about polishing, and did polish two hours a day. Since Inhome wanted a recognizable protagonist, Liepa doubled all tiles to 16×16 pixels and worked hard to scroll smoothly (instead of making caves smaller, as clones would do). Next, he created the protagonist directly in an editor. He never thought about his species ("I suppose in my mind he was kind of a furry smurf"); he much rather wanted him to blink his eyes and tap his foot. Every 500 points, you get a bonus life, and the background shimmers for two seconds.

Inhome had meanwhile vanished, so Liepa searched Byte magazine for American publishers, specifically the close east coast. He sent a disk to First Star Software, whose president was so hooked that he came late for an appointment. First Star collaborated on the difficulty curve, asked for different colors per cave, and conceived intermissions: Every four caves, you get a bonus life and play an optional mini-cave. Gray could only get minor ideas (like the huge title font) through; eventually, lawyers discussed credits and royalties. On October 28, 1983, First Star bought all rights.


Boulder Dash - A8 - Main Menu.png

Underlined main menu.

Boulder Dash - A8 - Cave A.png

A star is born.

Boulder Dash - A8 - Cave B NTSC.png

North Americans remember cave B with these colors.

Boulder Dash - A8 - Cave B PAL.png

Europeans like this.

Boulder Dash - A8 - Intermission 3 PAL.png

They also saw Rockford come out too late.

Boulder Dash - A8 - Cave M.png

Everyone's favorite.


Developer Peter Liepa had backgrounds in music and synthesizers, so he was interested and succeeded in designing a full soundtrack and even implementing attack and decay, all suited to the hardware and game experience.

Over the title screen and main menu, an original song loops. In-game, atmospheric sound effects spread over the POKEY chip as follows:

Channel 1 Channel 2 Channel 3 Channel 4

The higher in the cave the sound comes from, the likelier it gets through:

  • Time warning (also twice at the end of time bonus).
  • Boulder drops or impacts.
  • Jewel drops or impacts (at a random pitch).
  • Rockford collects a jewel.
  • Rockford appears, or collects the last jewel so the door opens (with a yellow or white flash).

Rockford walks through earth (loudly) or through air (softly).

Uniquely to Boulder Dash (A8), whenever the amoeba grows through earth, it echoes Rockford's last step.


  • Cave appears or disappears. According to a fan review, "it sounds like hundreds of birds are singing."
  • Amoeba.
  • Vibrating enchanted wall.
  • Time bonus.
  • Explosion.


To record two loops plus 10 seconds, the game was started in Altirra 3.90 with:

  1. NTSC.
  2. PAL.
# Title Composer Length Listen Download
101 Theme Peter Liepa 0:44
# Title Composer Length Listen Download
201 Theme Peter Liepa 0:51


(Source: Liepa in interviews. Game lacks audio credits.)

Game Rip






Audio Devices

This game uses the computer's built-in POKEY chip. On PAL, all audio is 17% slower.


  USA.svg   USA
Boulder Dash - A8 - First Star Software.jpg
Title: Boulder Dash
Platform: Atari Home Computer 32K
Released: 1984-0?-??
Publisher: First Star Software, Inc.
  USA.svg   USA
Boulder Dash - C64, A8 - First Star Software.jpg
Title: Boulder Dash
Platform: Atari Home Computers with 32k
Released: 198?-??-??
Publisher: First Star Software, Inc.
  UK.svg   UK
Boulder Dash - CPC, A8 - Mirrorsoft.jpg
Title: Boulder Dash
Platform: Atari32K+
Released: 1985-0?-??
Publisher: Mirrorsoft Ltd.
  USA.svg   USA
Super BoulderDash.jpg
Title: Super BoulderDash
Platform: Atari Home Computers; 48K or 64K
Released: 1986-0?-??
Publisher: Electronic Arts
  Unknown.svg   Unknown
Boulder Dash - A8 - Prism Leisure.jpg
Title: Boulder Dash
Platform: Atari 400/800
Released: 19??-??-??
Publisher: Prism Leisure Corporation P.L.C.


Boulder Dash
Boulder Dash Platform - A8.png • Platform - C64.png • Platform - ZXS.png • Platform - A2.png • Platform - CV.png • Platform - PCB.png • Platform - CPC.png • Platform - MSX.png • Platform - BBC.png • Platform - ELEC.png • Platform - NES.png
Boulder Dash II Platform - C64.png • Platform - ZXS.png • Platform - MSX.png • Platform - A2.png • Platform - A8.png • Platform - PCB.png
Rockford Platform - DOS.png • Platform - C64.png • Platform - A8.png • Platform - AMI.png • Platform - AST.png • Platform - ZXS.png • Platform - CPC.png
Notable Songs Theme
Notable Personnel Peter Liepa
Notable Companies First Star Software