When a law enforcement officer pulls over a speeding motorist, he might inform them that “Speed Kills” with a very somber inflection connoting the serious repercussions of traveling at a high velocity. A malcontent looking to be arrested might correctly respond, “It’s not the speed, but the sudden stop at the end.”
Mr. Driller would note that “It’s not the speed that kills, but the brightly colored blocks falling on my head.”
This Dreamcast puzzler is a throwback to earlier days of gaming when players did not care so much about deep, intricate plots or convoluted controller setups designed to utilize 12 buttons at once. Mr. Driller’s premise is simple: “The town is being overrun by colored blocks… Everybody is in a panic! Quick, call Mr. Driller!” The control scheme is also quite simple: use the D-Pad to maneuver right to left and hit A to move down. That’s it.
The goal is to drill all the way to the bottom of the huge pile of blocks in order to find out why blocks are coming from underground – a question we all ought to ask ourselves. Mr. Driller can move right to left and can even climb up one block, but most of his movement will be going downward. Mr. Driller has the ability to drill through any type of colored block that stands in his path, er… tunnel?
The problem is that Mr. Driller also has a huge head – literally. And falling blocks = squished Mr. Driller. Single blocks are a 1×1 size, but they can be joined in any direction by any number of blocks to form a large cohesive mass. Breaking such a mass will cause it to disappear, and everything (Mr. Driller and blocks) will enjoy a brief Looney Tunes gravity moment before falling. If anything falls on Mr. Driller, he loses a life. Of course, if a block falls onto a same-colored mass comprised of at least three blocks, then the whole mass will disappear, thus making it very possible to create huge chain reactions. Same colored blocks will also stick together when they fall, bringing an element of strategy to the puzzler.
Adding to the urgency of the game, Mr. Driller’s underground excursion naturally requires air for his survival. He starts with 100% but loses air constantly at a rate that varies directly to his depth. Scattered throughout the levels are air pockets that he can grab to refill his meter. In addition to the normal blocks and air pockets, “unbreakable” blocks also exist. These are not truly unbreakable, but if Mr. Driller is forced to drill through them, they sap a straight 20% off his air supply.
The main game’s mode is “arcade,” in which Mr. Driller is trying to get the bottom – 2500 feet for beginners or 5000 for experts. A score is given both on how far he makes it down and how many blocks are destroyed in the process. This mode is broken into 500 feet segments which serve as game levels; each level is fairly unique in styling with later levels becoming much more difficult to survive.
A key element to most puzzle games is the ability to be easily learned but hard to master. Mr. Driller aptly fits the bill; beginners will quickly pick up on the limited control scheme and few rules, but even masters will have a hard time consistently beating the expert setting.
Strategy does is quite present, usually in a fundamental struggle between the need for speed the ability to watch/remember where blocks are (falling). The necessary air capsules become surrounded by unbreakables in later stages, making some planning necessary.
To add variety, Mr. Driller features two more modes: survival and time attack. Survival asks the question “how low can you go?” – with only one life. Time attack is somewhat different in that players are required to beat a number of puzzles within an allotted time period – each puzzle having a different theme and necessary strategy.
Puzzle games rarely push a console’s visual or auditory capabilities, and Mr. Driller is no exception. Graphically, Mr. Driller is bright, happy and very simple with no need of fancy 3D rendering or cutting edge technology. Most players will probably be concentrating too hard on gameplay to truly notice the audio tracks which do an admirable job of staying in the background.
Replayability may be limited to beating an old high score, but many gamers will want to keep it around for a quick game or two. Mr. Driller comes recommended for all puzzle fans or anyone simply seeking an easy-to-pick-up quick game.
Mr Driller is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: Playstation, Game Boy Color.
(**** out of *****)