Mr. Driller Drill Spirits
Developer: Namco | Publisher: Namco, Nintendo Australia| Release Date: 2005 | Genre: Puzzle | Website: N/A | Purchase: Amazon
| Size: 128 Mbit
Mr. Driller has been around in a few games and if you have played any of them you’ll know what to expect here. For any newcomers, here’s a quick recap. Your goal is to drill through different colored blocks of various shapes and sizes. You can only drill sideways and downwards, but any block that comes tumbling down as a consequence of your drilling can crush you. If this doesn’t sound hard enough, you are also constantly losing oxygen, which can only be refilled by capsules that are usually placed at the most awkward spots.
The good news is if blocks of the same color connect to each other in blocks of four or more they will disappear. Falling blocks will also stop if they touch a like colored block to the side. This makes Mr. Driller just as much of a puzzle game as an arcade title and carefully planned moves will get you way further than simply trying to force your way. The rapidly depleting oxygen will keep you on your toes and there are certain blocks which will cost you 20% of your oxygen to break through. Those blocks are best avoided or removed by connecting four or more of them, but the problem is that oxygen capsules are usually stashed between them forcing you into risky situations. Completing a level by making it all the way down will reward you with a new character which is useful as each character has their own special abilities.
The game can be controlled via the stylus, but I found the pad and buttons to be way more responsive and intuitive. The top screen is used to display more of the gaming area, although I found myself hardly glancing at it apart from in “Pressure” mode where a big drill monster chases you down. The game also has a time attack mode as well as multiplayer, but more than one cart is required to play with friends.
The visuals are nothing special and this game is certainly not a showcase for the abilities of the DS. Everything is crisp, clear and colorful but there’s nothing that sets it apart from a Gameboy Advance title really. The game has voice overs for its characters, but these falls squarely in the “so bad it’s almost good” category. The sound effects are also pretty annoying as each character makes a noise as they drill and some like the robot will drive the people around you to murder. The music is so-so, but will be forgotten as soon as it’s switched off.
Initially the game is quite tricky, especially levels that require you to drill to depths of up to 1500 meters. It becomes easier as you get the hang of the game and unlock new powers and easier still if you make use of the shop, there you can buy special items from the “Drill master” using points you earned while playing. Extra lives, limited protection from falling blocks and extra speed are all at your disposal with the only catch being that you won’t be able to set any high scores if you use them.
Mr. Driller is not a bad first DS title, but titles that make better use of the unique features of the hardware will certainly come along. While this game can definitely be addictive once you get into it, it does lose its shine after a while. You might occasionally find yourself coming back to it, but once completed there’s not much else to aim for.
*Review originally published 2005.