You should play Namco’s lost arcade action classic, Mr. Driller DrillLand

Right now it sounds good for a blast of the best arcade and puzzle games of 2002.
Enlarge / / Right now it sounds good for a blast of the best arcade and puzzle games of 2002.

Bandai Namco

In recent years, Japanese game makers have attempted to revive the beloved niche of the 16-bit and 32-bit era arcade and puzzle series, but these nostalgia retreats have largely failed. From Capcom Puzzle Fighter it came to life on smartphones as a free gacha game. Sega’s Chu Chu Rocket It came back with too many hassles as an Apple Arcade exclusive (and, crucially, zero multiplayer). And Hudson Super bomberman He spluttered into the Switch 2017 launch lineup as a mess, though he eventually received some face-saving patches.

As a result, I shudder every time I see a cult classic, a series of puzzles and arcade that returns to modern, download-only storefronts. The genre that used to thrive on cartridges and CD-ROMs has matured for microtransactions and slot machine mechanics. That is why I am taking the unusual step of reviewing such a release. Right.

Mr. Driller DrillLand, released today on Windows PC and Nintendo Switch, is one of the rarest games from Namco’s early 2000s period, which was otherwise marked by the incredible 3D tastes of Ridge Racer and Tekken. Launched exclusively in Japan in 2002 for the GameCube, the 2D cartoon game was undoubtedly a swan song for the studio’s legacy as a giant from the ’80s. Fortunately, today’s updated and translated version leaves quite a bit Alone: ​​Your pure gaming experience returns with 1080p-compatible touches.

$ 30 may be a little expensive for this classic game, but it’s the best Mr piercer game ever made, and it’s a remarkable love letter to old Namco.

Clear a path to a flow state

Also, frankly, I’m happy to have this hugely joyous and weird game right now.

Like other puzzle games of its time, DrillLand It comes with a silly and largely unnecessary plot, and includes the same Japanese voice acting found in the 2002 version. Mr. Driller and his friends have been invited to visit a fictional amusement park, and each attraction rotates or modify the core. Mr piercer game formula with a themed trick. (His friends, if you’re wondering, include his father, like the guy who starred Dig dug—And a cheerful and talking dog named Puchi.)

One of these attractions is essentially one port from another Mr piercer games, because it just asks the players to dig, dig, dig. Your main goal is to dig through colored blocks from the top of the screen as deep as possible. It may seem simple, but if you dig carelessly, you can leave hanging fragments that fall and crush it, and your digging path is complicated by “solid” blocks and the requirement to collect the fillers from the oxygen tank. This is a high scoring chase mode as you will get more points for cleaning various amounts of depth quickly and efficiently.

From the first Mr piercer game released in 1999, no other puzzle game has copied its formula. Unlike the classic color scheme and tight pieces, Mr piercer it emphasizes the state of flux of constant and efficient movements and excavations, which benefits from the spatial awareness of the shapes and colors around it. Matching other color-block factors in your success, and your digging down can set color-matching combos in motion, so there’s a two-head boost in your Mr. Driller DrillLand Progress. The fact that this gameplay still feels special and unique makes this 2002 relaunch a worthy intriguing option for anyone who has lost the series before.

But even if you find that puzzle system to be a bit lacking, the other four modes add smart twists to your formula. The best mode eliminates the oxygen fill requirement and turns the entire game into an Indiana Jones parody, where you are forced to create digging paths that lead to collecting treasures while avoiding traps and, oh I love, giant rolling stones that breaks your digging path and threatens you, like the chase scene of Raiders. Another mode pays tribute to the Namco classic Druaga tower series, as it forces Mr. Driller to take specific paths through a dungeon, collect treasures and keys, and fight bosses. And a haunted house mode turns you into a kind of ghostbuster, as it freezes and captures ghosts within blocks that you would otherwise dig.

That is Puchi’s attitude

In between each of these challenges, a fully voiced cutoff scene will unfold with the personalities of the Driller team colliding dizzily on Saturday morning, and while you can press buttons to skip them, I suggest you don’t. The entire package radiates with brilliant DayGlo designs, all scaled to modern screen resolutions and a 16: 9 ratio, and part of the inflated cost of $ 30 is that you are sometimes expected to relax and marvel at the weird and to elaborate The story of the game is laid.

This should particularly delight anyone who still fondly remembers Katamari Damacy, which debuted on PlayStation 2 two years later DrillLandThe launch. You can see the seeds of KatamariThe crazy plot and character of the King of all cosmos planted by the sweet saccharin trials of the Driller family. In the meantime, DrillLandThe joyous J-Pop soundtrack, presented here in complete fidelity, is not identical to KatamariThe classic melodies in any section, but the charm of the tempo and the components of the vocal melody are almost identical.

The weirdness doesn’t end there. At any time, you can load a long sequence of music parade, where various Borerthe characters of the series trample the screen, almost at the same time as the music. There is no way to fail this mode; Technically it is not “game”, and you can only modify it by pressing a joystick to change the tempo of the protesters. Why is this in the game? I have no idea. But now I wish each video game had an optional runway sequence as a fun distraction. (Just think about how TLOU2Post-apocalyptic Seattle could be seen with its mutant monsters stomping on the music while holding sticks.)

To end the pack, the game includes a pair of four-player battle modes. One is a parallel race through the standard Mr piercer gameplay, where each player runs to dig through identical content, and the other is a boring battle mode where players dig through the same shared screen for a randomly placed treasure. The latter feels unfair as a versus game, while the former is pretty sparse with its fighting mechanics and “crap”. Still, as familiar four-player modes, they’re better than nothing (but unfortunately, they don’t work online).

Nitpicks, non-negotiators

The biggest drawback to the entire package is a price tag of $ 30, which is high for a 2002 relaunch. As for the “new” content, you’re getting a newly translated script (no new English voice acting), a Seamless scalability of the original 2D assets at 1080p resolution and a new “casual” level of difficulty, which, frankly, is far from casual. Mr. Driller DrillLand It can be quite relentless for new players due to how fast falling block shards fall and damage your character, and full runs will be wiped out due to very limited life group. (Casual mode only adds extra life to each mode, which, I must say, doesn’t make the pack friendly to newbies.)

Worse yet, the digital download of the game does not include any kind of instruction manual, so it will go through trial and error to answer serious questions about the game. What levels should I play first? Do the shiny blocks, which disappear after a certain time, mean something on one level? Why aren’t the “level 2” and “level 3” sections of each individual mode unlocked? Is there a point to spend in-game coins on a collectibles shelf? And how do all the items in the item shop work? The last question is crucial, because beginners will depend on that item shop, not “casually,” to survive their first few sessions. Some in-game guidance to that effect would have been appreciated.

Therefore, it is not a perfect collection. Still, I’ll take a relaunch that is stubbornly old-school about the microtransaction alternative. DrillLand It’s exactly the kind of cheesy, satisfying and unique puzzle game I want right now, and its new look on the portable Nintendo Switch is particularly welcome. (And since the 2009 iOS $ 1 series version is dead, thanks to the lack of 64-bit update, we’ll have to settle for this week’s solid port.)