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   PlanetDreamcast | Games | Reviews | Mr. Driller
    Mr. Driller
More fun than a root canal! - Review By Mr. Domino

Mr. Driller Logo

When Namco released its enhanced Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast, Sega fans everywhere heralded the company. Yet Namco seems to be a reluctant Dreamcast developer at best, and when the company announced that its next game on Sega's system was none other than Mr. Driller, the mobs of former Namco fans wanted blood. "Where's our Soul Calibur 2!? What's this 2-D garbage!? Surely Namco hates Sega!"

Which is a shame, because Mr. Driller, a long awaited semi-update to Namco's classic Dig Dug, is an addicting and great puzzle game in its own right. Whereas Dig Dug's goal in his self-titled game was to defeat all enemies to advance onto the next level, Mr. Driller must dig through layer after layer of pastel blocks to unravel the mystery behind the underground Tetris. Don't expect the mystery to require any sort of sleuthing talent, as it just provides a loose basis for the game's shallow story. No one will care that the citizens of Downtown have hired Mr. Driller to dig through the blocks which have fallen and covered the city -- the main attraction here is the gameplay, which is where Mr. Driller shines.

  • The Good

    He's a bad motha digger.

    An arcade port of an incredibly successful game in Japan, Mr. Driller is all about digging and surviving. Mr. Driller is a cute, little, blue-and-pink guy who can drill in any direction and leap onto a level as tall as him. Mr. Driller has three lives (which can be adjusted from one to five) to dig to the bottom. In the arcade mode, Namco provides a 2500 ft. and a 5000 ft. challenge to test one's burrowing skill. Blocks are randomly distributed and come in four colors, and when four or more like-colored blocks join they vanish a la Tetris. Falling blocks will stick to like colored blocks, and they will shake and fall when all support is removed. Each layer Mr. Driller digs through counts as five feet, and the game is broken up into progressively difficult sections made up of 500 feet of blocks. The way the game increases the challenge is by increasing the number of brown X-blocks, which take five hits to destroy and remove 20 seconds of air from Mr. Driller's oxygen tank, in the ground. Mr. Driller can replenish his air supply (he begins with 100 units/seconds of air) with air capsules that replenish 20 seconds of oxygen. Run out of air or get squished by a falling block, and Mr. Driller dies.

    Mr. Driller is always racing to avoid falling blocks or scrambling for an air tank, and it's this frantic pace which make the game so fun and addicting. Mr. Driller is always a juggling act between dodging falling blocks, digging to the bottom, gathering air, and accumulating points. Basic blocks are only worth ten points, but that figure triples when same colored blocks assemble in groups of four or more. Once players get the hang of surviving and digging, they can concentrate on strategically digging to increase their score. Chains -- when a group of blocks vanishes after another group supporting it is removed -- are not uncommon in Mr. Driller. Chains are the key to success as they are in most modern block-based puzzle games, both to attain a higher score and to remove obstructing X-blocks below. While the chains can be the result of luck more than skill, the less skilled player is more apt to have the unseen chain injure Mr. Driller by way of falling blocks or altering the landscape in an unfavorable way.

    Even pastel little boys need to breathe. Get that air capsule or else.

    The game controls perfectly and is more accurate than the too loose arcade controls. The graphics won't impress anyone, but they are clean, high-res, and get the job done. The sound, though, is absolutely incredible, and it's really too bad players will never notice it while concentrating on the game. The soundtrack is an amazingly textured experience featuring so many styles of music that I'm truly grateful that it was encoded so that the disc can be played through the Dreamcast's music player.

    In additional the the new soundtrack, Namco also added a time attack and survival mode, which greatly add to the game's longevity. The time attack takes Mr. Driller through ten stages with preset block patterns. Only the first four are available to the player, and beating the time records on these stages will unlock the next three and so on until Mr. Driller clears them all. In addition to raw speed, careful planning is necessary in these time challenges since players must recognize and take the quickest available route to the bottom. While racing to beat the record, Mr. Driller will come across clocks instead of air capsules in the time attack challenges, which subtract the clocks' face value from the timer. Not only is this mode hectic fun on its own, but it also teaches players many skills which help with the arcade and survival modes.

    Next: More Good, The Bad, and The Final Word

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