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Written by  :  Satoshi Kunsai (2084)
Written on  :  Feb 14, 2002
Platform  :  PlayStation
Rating  :  4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars

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How could ANYONE pass up this game??

The Good

In an age where Namco is focusing primarily on their Tekkens and Soul Caliburs, and on their Ridge Racers and whatnot, absolutely no one would ever have guessed that they'd write a game that goes way back to the simple fundamentals of old-school gameplay, simple but colorful and cute graphic styles, and addicting fun. But when they quietly released Mr. Driller in arcades and later on home systems, who would've ever guessed that they brought us a game that, despite looking simple and old-school, was fiendishly addictive and a hell of a lot of fun to play? But that's what Mr. Driller is, and I'm sure glad Namco was gutsy enough to bring this title Stateside. Well, on to the review!

There seems to be a story to this game. It seems that the city of Downtown is being flooded in colorful blocks, which are coming from deep below the earth. Everyone is in a panic, and someone is needed to drill down deep below the surface and investigate the source of the blocks. So the city chooses Mr. Driller to drill down through the blocks and find out what's causing the mess. The story is cute and at least functional, and at least gives you reason for just drilling all day. So, as the story says, the premise of the game is that you must guide Mr. Driller down through the earth, drilling through colored blocks. Most websites describe the gameplay as "a little Tetris and a little Boulderdash", which pretty much sums the whole game up nicely: as Mr. Driller moves further down the surface and drills, he loosens blocks up above him, which then fall down until they hit another block. If 4 or more of the same color blocks merge, they vanish, which can also cause chain reactions if more blocks fall and connect to each other. Just don't let a stray block fall on top of Mr. Driller's head, otherwise he'll get crushed (with a cute little squishing sound effect) and lose a life. There are also X-blocks scattered in the various stages, which must be drilled 5 times to remove them. However, you would want to avoid them, because when you drill one and break it, it'll suck away 20% of your precious oxygen. Oxygen capsules are also scattered throughout the stages, and can refill your air supply, allowing for a happier, healthier Mr. Driller. Speaking of your air supply, be very careful when it drops to below 30%, because Mr. Driller will suffocate and lose a life if you don't resupply him with air fast enough. Controlling Mr. Driller is at least very easy: he can point his drill up, down, left, and right, and drill in all those directions. That's it. One button and four directions, making for quick and easy control.

Continuing on with the gameplay department, the game has several modes of play included. Arcade Mode is essentially the arcade game, with two modes to play: 2500 Feet (easy mode) and 5000 Feet (expert mode). In these games, you can play up to 10 stages, divided into 500 feet each. 2500 Feet mode is rather easy, with simple block patterns and lots of oxygen capsules, while 5000 Feet mode has more complicated block patterns and a couple less oxygen capsules. There is an ending to Arcade Mode, but you must play 5000 Feet to see it (and no, I'm not spoiling it. It is really cute, however.) You also get Survival Mode, which is more or less just endless drilling until you get squashed or suffocate. Time Attack Mode has you drilling straight through a stage as fast as possible and beat a record time. For example, one stage in T.A. Mode has a record of 15 seconds, meaning you have to reach the bottom within 15 seconds to move on, otherwise you'll have to do it again. It may seem tough, but just remember: what good would it do without practicing?

Now, seeing as how this is a conversion of an arcade game, let me make it known right now that the arcade board this was based on is a virtual carbon copy of the PlayStation hardware, so that means the PlayStation version is pixel-for-pixel exact to the arcade version, even eliminating load times altogether! That's right! This game has NO loading pauses in it whatsoever! As for the graphics, sound and music: the graphics are very simple looking, but extremely colorful and quite detailed, actually. The style used throughout is a very simple and cute look that looks like a children's anime series (remember, this is a Japanese game after all), and it's pretty amusing to see a tiny little Mr. Driller hoisting a drill almost as big as he is! The music is very well written and composed, with several styles of music being used, even (yes, they did it!) including a little rendition of Mr. Driller's theme in 20s silent film style! The best part about the music is that most of the pieces are so enjoyable that you would want to listen to them outside of the game! Sound effects are appropriate and fit well with the action, and we even get a couple of little voice effects from Mr. Driller as he goes through his daily duty of drilling.

The Bad

Complaints? About this game? What complaints? Well, okay, just one tiny one: once in a while it's a tiny bit annoying when hopping up blocks, because Mr. Driller needs to stop before hopping. Once in a while that can cost a life, especially if you're trying to outrun falling blocks. Thankfully, it's not a common occurrence; more like an occasional one, so gameplay isn't majorly affected at all, really.

The Bottom Line

If someone looks at Mr. Driller and thinks that "Oh, it looks goofy. Tekken 4 has better graphics!", they're insane. Mr. Driller, for all intents, has got to be one of the most enjoyable puzzle games devised in this modern age, and anyone with half a brain or into cute anime/games would most definitely have a blast with the game!

As an quick finale: it's doesn't matter which version of Mr. Driller you get. The PlayStation version is the easiest to get, while the Dreamcast and PC versions offer all the same modes as the PSX version, but with hi-res 640x480 graphics. The Gameboy Color version is also surprisingly decent, but the only qualm about it is that the blocks seem a tiny bit "floaty" when they fall. Ahh, who cares? Get the version you want and get to drilling!