Monday, March 11, 2013

Mr. Driller: Drill Land - Can you dig it?

Platform: GCN    Genre: Puzzle    Release: Dec. 19, 2002

If you've played previous Mr. Driller games, you may think that you know the drill, but Mr. Driller: Drill Land brings several new versions of that classic formula to the table which should entertain fans and newcomers alike. 

For those not in the know, Mr. Driller is a series of puzzle games which involve digging down through colored blocks. Same colored blocks stick together and will break when you drill through a connecting block, causing all the blocks above them to fall. You have to keep moving steadily downward while avoiding being crushed and while keeping an eye out for air refills if you want to win.

This game takes place in a theme park which has various attractions that all involve drilling. From the main hub, you can choose which of the five modes you want to play or go to the shops to spend the points you earn from playing on collectible cards, goods, and items that will help you clear levels if you get stuck. There's also a mostly pointless parade that you can watch and control that has the characters going by on floats. Four player multiplayer is also available from the main menu and features a race and a battle mode.

Each of the five attractions has three difficulties and an unlimited mode, but only the easiest difficulty is available to start. The others are unlocked one at a time as you clear all five modes on each available difficulty. The harder difficulties not only make the distance you have to dig longer, but in most cases they add new layouts of blocks and other new puzzle elements as well. Each level is also accompanied with a fully voice acted cutscene before and after it, which is generally just silly dialogue between the characters. There is a story, but it's very simple and unnecessary. The graphics are crisp and colorful, and it's worth noting that the game's soundtrack is absolutely fantastic (composed by Go Shiina of Tales of Legendia fame). In fact, the only way I knew about this game in the first place was because of its soundtrack.

Now then, onto the different modes, each of which I have recorded for your viewing pleasure.

World Drill Tour
Gameplay at 4:00
World Drill Tour is the mode that most resembles previous Mr. Driller games; in fact, it's almost identical. The goal is simply to get to the target depth while collecting air tanks. You only have three lives so you'll have to be careful to avoid getting crushed or running out of air. For high score seekers, the more air containers you get, the more points you get. You'll also get a bonus for collecting every air tank, not losing lives, and for finishing quickly. This is also the only mode in which you can choose any character and each character has certain strengths that are unique to them.

Star Driller
Gameplay at 0:50
Star Driller is very similar to World Drill Tour except that there are now ?-Block items that will cause one of many random effects to occur. Usually the effects are good and may refill your air, increase your max air, warp you further down, or destroy blocks. But getting the item blocks is also a risk because sometimes a black hole will appear which will suck you in and put you back to the start of the section you're in if you fall into it.

Drindy Adventure
Gameplay at 0:55
Drindy Adventure is the first mode that makes significant changes to the traditional formula. Air is no longer an issue, so you have as long as you need to figure out what to drill and what not to drill. However, on your way to the bottom there are gold statues that you have to collect. It isn't as easy as just collecting them though, as they are usually guarded by traps such as rolling boulders, spikes, and fire. This mode is definitely more about planning than speed.

Horror Night House
Gameplay at 1:00
This haunted house themed mode is more different still and probably one of the funnest. Once again, the air meter is gone and instead there is an HP meter. Also, the goal is no longer to reach a target depth. Instead, you'll need to collect jars of holy water which you can use to freeze roaming ghosts in blocks. Once frozen, the ghosts can be defeated by drilling the block that they are contained in. This causes them to drop "drystals" which you need to advance to the next level. If you get crushed, are attacked by the ghosts, or drill a block containing ghosts that aren't frozen, you'll lose HP. Running out of HP means game over.

Hole of Druaga
Gameplay at 1:00
This is the most different of all the modes and it resembles a dungeon crawler. The stage is divided into a randomly generated arrangement of rooms which are revealed on the map as you explore them. This time you have HP instead of air, but your HP decreases not only from being crushed, but also every time you drill or get hit by enemies. Yeah, there are enemies now and if you beat them, they'll drop items. The items can be used from a menu and will destroy certain blocks, change the color of blocks, restore your HP, or give you helpful abilities. In order to win, you'll have to find a key that is being guarded by a dragon, then find the door that the key opens, and finally defeat a boss using the items you collected throughout the level. Along with Horror Night House, Hole of Druaga is my other favorite mode.

Everything about Mr. Driller: Drill Land is incredibly polished and fun. The soundtrack and voice acted cutscenes are above and beyond the call of duty for a puzzle game like this, but are very much welcomed. It really is strange that this game never made it out of Japan because it is an excellent puzzle game. If you're into puzzle games or other Mr. Driller games and have the ability to play it, I definitely recommend giving it a shot. 

In order to play Mr. Driller: Drill Land you will need a Japanese console, a region-modded console, or a Wii with the ability to change the game region and language to Japanese. You will not be able to save if using Freeloader for Game Cube. Japanese Game Cube games require their own memory card with only Japanese save data on them which must be reformatted when used for the first time. Mr. Driller: Drill Land is one of a few games that checks the console's region before saving, so if you don't change the game region and language with AnyRegionChanger (or a safer and more up-to-date app like ModMii) you will not be able to save even if you can run the game. I found that running Pimp My Wii, which automatically downloaded and installed the appropriate hacks and custom IOSs required, fixed any errors I encountered with AnyRegionChanger, but due to the constantly evolving homebrew scene, I recommend that you find a more up-to-date and in depth tutorial if you are planning to attempt changing your Wii's region.
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