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Mr. Driller Drill Land (Switch) Review

August 1, 2020 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Mr Driller Drill Land
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Mr. Driller Drill Land (Switch) Review  

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had no experience with Mr. Driller before. While the franchise has been around since at least the PS1 era, I’ve never encountered it but know people enjoy it. With that said, when this game came up for review, I picked it because I wanted to broaden my horizons some. Drill Land is a decent package, but I don’t think I’ve quite understood the intricacies of the Mr. Driller formula. This is compounded by an core issue that I’ll get into below.

Mr. Driller Drill Land starts with a bunch of Mr. Driller (I assume) characters being invited to the new theme park Drill Land. While there, many drilling occurs, along with some slightly seedy park owners occasionally skulking around.

The closest game that this reminds me of is Puyo Puyo Tetris. Obviously not in terms of gameplay, but in terms of trying to bring a classic puzzle franchise into a modern time and either introduce or reintroduce players to it. Both games also have very bright aesthetics, Japanese-flavored soundtracks, and fairly nonsensical plotlines.

The main gameplay of Mr. Driller is this: you have to drill down to reach deeper sections of the hole. You drill different colored rocks (red, blue, pink, yellow), as you go down. The things you have to watch out for are falling rocks from above and an air supply mechanic that is akin to a timer. You have to pick up various air tanks in the section to resupply your tank. Falling rocks can attach to rocks of the same color as they are, providing a safety zone. So, if you bust up a green rock, you fall, and a blue rock is going to land on you and squish you (costing you a life), if it falls next to a blue rock, it will latch onto that and you’ll be saved.

There are also “hard” rocks that require multiple drill attempts. If you bust one of these, your air supply drops by 20%, which is exactly the amount an air tank will replenish your supply. Sometimes you’ll need to bust one of these hard blocks, but it is a bit of a gamble if you already have a low air supply.

This is kind of the basic gameplay of Mr. Driller, at least that I’ve found. This is where this “Core issue” creeps into play. Mr. Driller has no real tutorial to get you acclimated to how you’re supposed to play. Puyo Puyo Tetris has a fairly lengthy tutorial on getting you up to speed on both Tetris and Puyo Puyo mechanics so you can do well in the game. Drill Land….doesn’t have this. So, while I can win some levels and games, I really don’t think I’m actually understanding how to play correctly, or how to get a high score. This is really NOT an indictment on Mr. Driller as a concept, but I just don’t think I get it.

Here’s a theoretical and practical example of what I’m talking about. The theoretical: Drill Land there are 5 different Mr. Driller game types, each with slight differences on rules and mechanics. But the game doesn’t really explicitly say “Hey, this game mode is traditional Mr. Driller!”. So, I just started picking the random modes, until I asked someone on Twitter, “What’s the stock mode of this game?” So, “Thanks” to Ian Ferguson for telling me where to go. All the game gives you is a simple explanation on the mode mechanics and that’s it.

The more practical example of what I’m talking about is thus: for anyone who has played Katamari Damacy before, there is a short, but very important, tutorial when the game starts about how to play. How to roll, turn, jump (if applicable, do a 180, etc., your Katamari in order for the player to get up to speed on how to control it. While I’m not saying Mr. Driller has mechanics like that, just a 3 minute long playable training mode would be nice to help guide new players in.

Like I said above, there are 5 game modes, each with slightly different things going on. They are as follows:

  • World Drill Tour – This is the “basic” Driller mode. There are 5 sections for you to drill through, air capsules are 20 air, hard blocks cost 20 air, and if you get smushed or run out of air, you lose a life (you have 3). There are also different characters, each having slightly different attributes: some move faster, dig quicker or climb higher but have disadvantages as well.
  • Star Driller – Star Driller has the same basic mechanics as Tour, but there are “?” blocks that can be destroyed for either good or bad things.
  • Drindy Adventure – This mode is a tad different in that you have to collect 10 golden statues before you reach the exit. In this mode, the blocks don’t latch onto each other as they fall, and there is no air supply to be concerned about. Lastly, the hard blocks are replaced by boulders that can roll around and squash you.
  • Horror Night House – In the house you have to collect 20 Drystals (crystals) before the end. Also, there are enemy ghosts you have to vanquish. You do this by collecting a Holy Water” vial and using it when they are close. If they attack you, they will take away some of your HP. You collect the Drystals by killing the ghosts.
  • The Hole of Druaga – Here, you have to find the key to unlock a chamber. You start off with 150 HP and every time you dig, you lose 1 HP. There are “Dristones” you can pick up that do different things, from a menu. Druaga is kind of the RPG-ish mode.

There’s a few other things to do also, a shop to unlock stuff, an incomprehensible music mode, etc., but that’s kind of about it. There are two difficulty levels, the one from the original GameCube version and a rebalanced one for this port.

The final score: review Good
The 411
While I didn’t get everything I wanted out of this game I think I enjoyed it? To be honest, I’m still unclear on the finer points of how to play Mr. Driller but I think I get the very basics down. To Drill Land’s credit, it looks fairly cute and has some great music in it. If you’re a fan of the franchise this is an easy purchase but if you’re new like I was, there may be other games that ease you into playing a bit better.