Mr. Driller Land
Mr. Driller and crew return to dig up more trouble in Mr. Driller Land. Here's our full import review.
In 1999, Namco released the original Mr. Driller in Japanese arcades. A great puzzle game that had players taking control of Mr. Driller and helping him drill through an almost endless supply of colored blocks and stone objects underground until reaching his goal. The latest in the Mr. Driller franchise, Mr. Driller Land, offers extra features and some new play modes and challenges to keep all Driller fans satisfied.
The control setup in Mr. Driller Land is simplicity at its finest. With the exception of the Horror Night House and Hole of Druaga levels, you'll only have to make use of one action button, which is of course the drilling button. You can aim the drill in all four directions in order to drill colored blocks or stones that are above, underneath, or to your sides. In the Hole of Druaga level you'll have extra control functions that allow you to access an items list in order to select from the special items (Dristones) you have in your arsenal. There's also a map screen you can view to help guide you to through the different sections throughout the castle. The Horror Night House level features a two button setup that allows you to drill and spray holy water. Overall, the game controls very well and supports both analog and digital controls.
As the Driller family makes their way around the theme park, they'll be able to take part in five attractions in single player mode. Before starting each level you're provided with some cut-scenes and a short briefing on how to play.
The object of the game is simple, and the difficulty is very well balanced, allowing for some success through a small amount of trial and error. As Mr. Driller, you'll drill through a variety of different colored blocks and stones, reaching depths of several hundred feet underground in order to reach the goal located at the bottom of each level.
Every block you drill through creates an opening that causes the remaining blocks above it to fall into. Instead of falling all the way down until filling the openings, the blocks tend to fall until they link up to other blocks of the same color, stopping them in their tracks. If there isn't one of the same color then they'll continue falling until filling the open space. If more than four like colored or stone blocks connect with each other, then like in Columns, they'll clear each other out, with the empty space causing a chain reaction that will shift the positioning of the remaining blocks above and bring a bunch of them crashing down onto you in order to fill the void.
This can be both helpful and dangerous, with the dangerous part of course being that you'll get squashed like a grape and lose a life if you're not fast enough to avoid them by drilling other pathways and making your escape. These parts of the game provide the most exhilarating moments as you can find yourself at times trying to cleverly avoid a barrage of falling blocks of various types. The helpful aspects of this come into play when you're trying to obtain hard to reach items that are either too high up or surrounded by stone blocks that will cause you to use up more air if you bother drilling through them.
Depending on the courses you're playing through, each block or series of blocks you drill through will deplete some of your air supply. You have an air supply meter that's also represented by percentages. The meter starts off at 100% and will decrease every time you drill through blocks, or in the case of some levels, work like a timer and automatically count down even without drilling through any blocks. You can replenish your air supply by collecting the air capsules scattered throughout the levels. While not all of the levels follow this system, with the exception of Horror Night House, they'll all have you drilling and racing to supplement your air supply.
Since the entire game takes place at a theme park, you'll experience various fun-looking attractions, each with their own theme. There are 5 different attractions; each plays differently from the other.
You'll play through cool levels like STAR DRILLER, a level that uses outer space as its theme while you play against an animated space background with scrolling stars and comets; HORROR NIGHT HOUSE where you'll find yourself digging through the depths of a Haunted House filled with ghosts that leave behind collectable Drystals, which let you proceed to the next floor; THE HOLE OF DRUAGA featuring a Knight in Driller armor off to rescue a damsel in distress - a little more complex as it isn't straightforward and requires some backtracking; DRINDY ADVENTURE with an Indiana Jones style theme, collectable gold statues and falling boulders to avoid; and WORLD DRILL TOUR, a pretty fun level that celebrates the theme of different countries and where everything appears large.
Along with the game's single-player mode, players can also access the DRILL CAMP which contains two multiplayer vs. modes that support up to four players. In these modes players can go head-to-head to see who the best Driller is. The two options consist of a RACE and BATTLE option - in the race mode, all of the players share the same single view and race to see who can be the first to reach the goal at the bottom. The Battle mode pits players against each other in split-screen view mode to see who can be the first to collect all three gold coins. Bring a microscope as the screen is mighty tiny in this mode. The one problem with DRILL CAMP is that there's no single player option. Unfortunately this portion of the game is 2 - 4 players only, unlike the Game Boy Advance version which allows you to race against other CPU controlled Drillers
Along with the regular play modes, Mr. Driller Land also houses a number of extra features that can be selected from the theme park's Guide Map screen.
DREAMIN PARADE, although not a playable level provides you with a break by throwing a Driller themed Parade for you to watch. The rest of the extra options can be found in DRILL TOWN, which is a mall that provides you with access to different shops and show rooms. Here you'll find a whole host of bonus stuff, including a cut-scene movie theatre, sound test, music editor, a shop to purchase items and perhaps most importantly, GBA - GameCube connectivity that lets you transfer game data to the GBA version of Mr Driller. Why you'd particularly want to is another matter however.
The levels are designed very well, each with a different theme than the other. Star Driller features starry backgrounds, Hole of Druaga has medieval settings, while Horror Night House has eerie mist floating past its haunting background settings.
The game is also filled with animated cut-scenes throughout the game that help tell the story. While the animations themselves aren't anything to write home about, they're still done in a pretty cute style.
Audio-wise, Mr. Driller Land is definitely something special. The music is wonderful and features a symphonic selection of old and new tunes that are orchestrated oh so beautifully well and supposedly performed by a real orchestra. There were times we were tempted to crack open the GameCube just to see if a mini-Yanni or a live Orchestra were hiding inside. The music consists of some very well done orchestrated works, some of which are accompanied by beautiful vocals. Each themed level has its perfectly suited musical theme. Truly some memorable stuff and without a doubt - one of the best video game soundtrack offerings this generation.
Overall, Mr. Driller Land seems to be the best version of the series. While GBA's Mr. Driller Ace does have a few things over it (such as the varied depths and higher difficulty level), Mr. Driller Land makes itself easily accessible and enjoyable to all gamers without becoming frustrating like the GBA cousin. What Mr. Driller Land does lack are more levels with varied depths and a feature rich multi-player mode, as the current VS. modes just don't cut it really. Regardless, the single player mode contains plenty of addictive gameplay to keep the game highly replayable.