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GBA Review: Drill Dozer

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From here on out, every video game should let the player take hold of a drill.

While not all games will use it in the same innovative fashion as Drill Dozer, the pure satisfaction of wiping out walls, enemies, and entertaining boss characters is unmatched by any gun or sword. Drill Dozer's entire gameplay revolves around this simple mechanic, and with finely tuned level design, it's one of the best titles the Game Boy Advance has ever seen.

Creating a superb cast of characters done in a quirky, 2-D lighthearted style, players control a band of thieves after a precious red diamond. Their means of theft is pretty straightforward: drill through anyone or anything in their way with a bi-pedal machine, complete with oversized drill attachment. Walls, platforms, background objects, and other hazards are no match.

The drill serves other purposes aside from cartoon violence too. It can be used to reach higher platforms, push the player backwards at a high speed, or find secret areas hidden in walls. This leads to a plethora of innovative puzzles that are required to advance.

It also creates some irritating and endlessly frustrating sections too. The sign of a great game though is whether or not you continue on regardless of how difficult things become, and Drill Dozer has a great hook to convince you keep playing. By collecting cash during the missions, you'll be able to unlock new levels, extra health bars, a stronger drill, and secrets. This creates an entirely new set of levels when the game is supposedly beaten since most are unavailable until after the credits roll.

Even with its addicting levels, Drill Dozer's greatest asset is pure satisfaction. No matter how many levels you run through, the drilling never becomes repetitious. This is done by making sure the player (while always using the same buttons) is always drilling in different ways. While you may need it to defeat enemies, a few minutes later the drill is used to turn a switch.

The game does take a few turns that feel cheap, like taking away power-ups at the end of each level, and inserting them in obvious places when visiting the next (the drill special bits, up to three levels of power, are required to clear every stage). This is an easy way to keep the player out of areas they're not necessarily ready for, but also feels restrictive.

While an obvious gimmick, Drill Dozer uses a rumble feature. It's not the strongest vibration in a video game, though it can have a gameplay effect. When switching gears to power-up the drill, the three levels of vibration let you know when it's time to switch. While there is also visual confirmation of the timing, you'll quickly learn the vibration does a better job than an on-screen meter.

Couple all of its positive aspects with a classic soundtrack that sounds like it was ripped from one of many early Mega Man games, and Drill Dozer earns what will undoubtedly be cult classic status. This is a dying breed of video game, and the only reason you need to justify keeping your Game Boy Advance. This is a system selling title.

Drill Dozer is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.