One of Namco's greatest series has returned with a remake of a Japanese GameCube game so let's join the Hori family and start drilling.
I love Mr. Driller. Ever since I played the original on PS1 back in 1999, I was hooked and when I found out that the hero Susumu Hori is Dig Dug's Taizou Hori's son, it all made much more sense. For decades, Namco has been releasing top-notch arcade experiences and although Mr. Driller debuted long after the arcade boom of the '80s, it carried on the spirit of the era perfectly by offering simple yet challenging gameplay that's set in a wondrously colourful world which made players' pupils dilate as they partook in the action-packed fun. Since its debut, very few sequels released, especially here in North America. Mr. Driller 2 for Game Boy Advance was a solid follow-up yet it didn't quite feel like the next evolution. Also, Mr. Driller Drill Spirits for DS and Xbox 360's Mr. Driller Online were pretty fun. Meanwhile, Mr. Driller Drill Land was a phenomenal GameCube game but it was only ever released in Japan; until now, that is.
What sets Mr. Driller Drill Land apart from other games in the series is that it takes place in an amusement park that features 5 unique attractions which act as its modes. Each one plays with the classic gameplay formula in interesting ways as well as allows you to play as different characters including the familiar Susumu Hori, his brother Ataru Hori, his father Taizou Hori, his dog Puchi, and his friendly rival Anna Hottenmaier. For the unfamiliar, the core gameplay involves drilling into blocks which makes all the same coloured touching blocks disappear and the general goal is to dig down while trying not to get crushed. Many consider it a puzzle game but I don't really because it's very action-packed and there isn't much of a puzzle element aside from planning ahead whenever you can.
As I said, the attractions in Mr. Driller Drill Land take this core gameplay and play with it in fun ways. For starters, World Drill Tour is basically the classic mode where you try and drill down to the bottom and Star Driller is very similar except with items that may help or hurt you. Next, Drindy Adventure has you try and collect golden statues while avoiding traps such as rolling boulders and Horror Night House is sort of a ghost-busting mode where you collect holy water to defeat ghosts and collect Drystals. Finally, in The Hole of Druaga, you navigate a dungeon while looking for keys and fighting bosses. It's definitely the most unique mode and can be a lot of fun to master.
Although all of these modes are very cool and add a welcome layer of variety to the classic Mr. Driller formula, I wish that they did even more to differentiate themselves. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the variety because I did a lot and you have to incorporate interesting strategies to master a few of the modes which is great. With that in mind, the changes don't work out all that well from time to time. For example, in The Hole of Druaga, success often feels like luck because it's easy to get lost within the dungeon, especially if you accidentally miss an exit to a room and get stuck at the bottom. Situations like that can be pretty frustrating although these moments don't occur frequently which is especially the case once you spend time familiarizing yourself with each mode's rule set.
Last but not least, I'd like to discuss just how cheerful and wonderful the world of Mr. Driller Drill Land is. The visuals are as bright and colourful as you would expect but one thing that I wasn't expecting is just how hilarious the cutscenes are. The Japanese voice acting is excellent and watching the characters goof around and tease each other made me regularly laugh out loud. There are a lot of scenes to unlock, too, so you're bound to have a hoot watching them. Speaking of which, I also enjoyed how many collectibles there are. You can play each of the 5 modes via 3 levels as well as a special variation and as you do, you'll amass Bits that you can exchange for goods such as figures, support items that provide boosts, and collectible Driller Cards. Completing everything will surely take a long time.
Mr. Driller Drill Land is the best game in the series and one of my favourite Switch games in recent memory. If you enjoy action-packed arcade fun with plenty of cheerful humour, you'll thoroughly dig this.
- + Awesome classic Mr. Driller gameplay with 5 distinct super-fun modes
- + Brilliant presentation and wonderful music
- + Lots of fun collectibles to acquire
- - A few modes don't differentiate themselves as much as they could have
- - Some situations can be kind of frustrating