HIGH Classic Mr. Driller action with a few twists.
LOW Having to clear a depth in every minigame to unlock the next stage.
WTF The random warp that puts Mr. Driller directly under falling blocks.
Mr. Driller DrillLand was originally released in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube, but only in Japan. Nearly two decades later, the game has received a shiny coat of paint and been readied for a Western release. The content may not be completely new, but it delivers classic arcade play.
Mr. Driller and six of his drilling friends have travelled to the world’s first underground amusement park, conveniently named Drill Land! Within the park, there are five different attractions like the space-themed Star Driller, the haunted Horror Night House, the World Drill Tour and more. Numerous cutscenes tell a story of evil forces taking over the park, but the main attraction is classic Mr. Driller action – dig down, break blocks, and avoid having them fall on Mr. Driller’s head!
World Drill Tour is classic Mr. Driller gameplay, while the other four mini-lands put a twist on the vertical scrolling action. Star Driller requires players to collect air capsules to replenish a dwindling supply. In Horror Night House, players must find crystals to eradicate ghosts inhabiting the blocks. The fourth theme is an adventure type, where gamers must collect gold treasure and avoid traps, like spikes, fire, and boulders.
The mini-land Hole of Druaga offers the most variety. It’s a castle theme that requires collecting potions, battling foes, and finding a key. While Mr. Driller is usually about downward vertical action, here players will find themselves moving to various rooms horizontally as well. Once the key is found, players battle the demon Druaga to claim victory. I found this boss battle to be a little confusing, as it required attacking with potions instead of drilling, but after a little practice it became easier.
Once all five lands have been cleared, there’s a final boss fight to wrap up the story. While not the most challenging, this battle played closer to the basic Mr. Driller gameplay than the Druaga battle did.
Each mini-land has enough unique aspects to keep them from feeling monotonous. Classic is still my personal favorite, but I did enjoy the twists in each theme. However, it’s slightly disappointing to find that in order to unlock harder depths (1000, 1500, and 2000 meters) players need to beat the previous depth in all of the five game modes. A minor frustration, but not a gamebreaker.
The only other minor complaint is with one of my favorite modes, Star Driller. In addition to collecting air capsules, players find mystery boxes that clear out blocks or add a shield that protects from falling blocks. However, one random power-up warps the player to another location on the playfield – the problem is that I was consistently placed below a rush of falling blocks. I’m not quite sure how this “power-up” is supposed to be beneficial!
Speaking of power-ups, DrillLand also includes a town area that allows players to buy items that help in any theme which may be posing a challenge. There are extra lives, shields, and faster speed. It’s great that these are an option for players struggling to clear a level, but as a trade-off, players won’t receive a final score for that level if they choose to use an item.
Mr. Driller DrillLand is a welcome return for a character who hasn’t been in a new game since 2009. It’s filled with plenty of variety, and still holds true to its original gameplay — fans will be pleased, and it’s also worth a look for anyone who enjoys arcade-style action.
Disclosures: This game is developed by and published by Bandai Namco. It is currently available on Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. Zero hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Alcohol Reference and Mild Cartoon Violence. Parents should feel safe letting young ones play this. The cartoon violence is usually the player getting crushed by blocks, but there is no blood or gore. I did not catch the alcohol reference, so any mention must be very minor.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game’s story is told via subtitled cutscenes. Dialogue is inside a large white text bubble. Characters are highlighted when speaking, while other characters on screen are slightly shaded. Text size cannot be changed. There are no noticeable sound queues within the game. The game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. Players will move with either the left control stick or the direction buttons. All game modes use the A button to dig. In the castle adventure mode, players will use the X button to open up the potions menu and the Y button to open the level map.
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