Title: Mr. Driller DrillLand
Developer: Project Drill
Release Date: June 25, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Bandai Namco has been on a quest to bring some of their oldest IPs to a new generation, and they don’t seem to be letting up any time soon. For the uninitiated, Mr. Driller Drill Land is a 2002 puzzle adventure released on Gamecube in Japan. Now, the publisher has finally decided to bring it west on Switch and PC with Mr. Driller DrillLand. The game aims to introduce more players to the puzzle title and hopefully grow new interest in this charming IP. Thankfully, for the most part, it works quite well.
Up until now, my only experience with Mr. Driller DrillLand is watching speedruns of it being played online. It was nice to be able to finally play the game and see for myself if it’s really as challenging as people make it seem. For this global release, the developer has included a Casual Mode that makes it a bit easier to get to drilling. Trust me, after more than a few deaths, I was thinking of switching over in the matter of an hour.
The story finds Susumu Hori, Puchi, and the rest of the driller gang heading to a special drill-themed amusement park called DrillLand that exists underground. There are five attractions available, each featuring a different game mode and playable character. Upon completion of the first stage of each attraction, a stamp is earned that progresses the narrative. As stamps are collected, more is revealed about the mysterious park and its owners through some of the cutest animated cutscenes.
If you’ve played earlier entries of the series, the story will add a decent dose of nostalgia through the character’s interactions and relationships. However, given that this title includes many of the characters, it acts as a perfect introduction to the group and some of their quirks. The characters each have an innocent appeal to them that makes it reminiscent of watching a Powerpuff Girls episode.
This is only complimented by the game’s updated visuals for the character and environment designs. Everything is colorful and vibrant as you make your way through each of the attractions. The levels are still reminiscent of their classic themes, and the updated graphics only enhance them instead of taking liberties with new elements.
For each attraction, you’ll be drilling, but there are also different rules depending on which level you are playing. The concept, however, more or less stays the same. You need to be conscious of your air, and you need to try not to get hit by falling blocks, or you’ll lose a life. Each level keeps this in mind, with some adding an additional item to collect on your way down.
One of the more exciting attractions is The Hole of Druaga, which has a few adventure elements added as you make your way to different rooms to collect keys and fight bosses. Furthermore, you’ll also use items that heal you or affect the blocks around you. Each attraction has a unique element to it and keeps the entire game feeling fresh as you make your way through the attractions.
Mr. Driller DrillLand is an exceptionally challenging game, even on the first level of the attractions. Getting through the entire first level campaign took me around 4 hours. During that time, I died many many times, but I never had the urge to give up or stop playing. The adventure has a way to charm you into trying one more time and get just a little further. This may be largely due to the fact that the soundtrack is just so damn good.
However, the controls can be a bit finicky on the Switch. I noticed my character would sometimes drill to the side when I wasn’t explicitly holding the down button while drilling. Also, I am not a big fan of the items and cards that you can purchase using points earned in the game. The menus keep you in the store a lot longer than you should be since an option just to purchase multiple items would have streamlined the entire interaction. However, some of the items also make levels a bit easier, so it’s worth it to have a peek at what’s available.
When all the attractions are completed, a final boss battle occurs. Following the battle, the real game pretty much begins as you can play on tougher levels that will put your drilling skills to the ultimate test. However, given the similarities between each of the five attractions, if you dislike one or two of these modes, this game’s worth is cut short significantly.
To add a bit more insanity to the adventure, there are multiplayer modes available for up to four players. It offers a fun, competitive experience that you can play as a free-for-all or in teams. Still, the $29.99 price tag might be a little steep in terms of everything you get here since the casual offering might only take you a few hours to get through. Getting the most out of it will require you to invest in the high scores to dominate the online leader boards.
Mr. Driller DrillLand is the perfect bite-sized puzzle game for the Switch. Its western debut has been long overdue, but this release encapsulates all the zany characters and addictive drilling-puzzles for new and old fans alike. A few new attractions would have made this release a proper remake, but the added casual mode and updated visuals do enough to bring this series to puzzle-lovers everywhere.
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