Sun. Oct 2nd, 2022
Right now it sounds good for a blast of 2002's best arcade puzzle games.
enlarge Right now it sounds good for a blast of 2002’s best arcade puzzle games.

Bandai Namco

In recent years, Japanese game makers have tried to revive the much-loved arcade puzzle series from the 16- and 32-bit era, but these nostalgic cash-ins have mostly failed. Capcom’s puzzle fighter came back to life on smartphones as a free-to-play gacha mess. Segas Chu Chu Rocket returned with too many complications as an Apple Arcade exclusive (and, crucially, zero multiplayer). And Hudson’s Super Bomberman sputtered like a mess on the Switch’s 2017 launch lineup, though it did eventually receive some face-saving patches.

As a result, I shudder when I see a cult-classic, puzzle arcade series return to modern, download-only storefronts. The genre that used to thrive on cartridges and CD-ROMs has matured into microtransactions and slot machine mechanics. That’s why I take the unusual step of reviewing such a launch Turn right

mr. Driller DrillLandComing today on Windows PCs and Nintendo Switch, is one of Namco’s rarest early ’00s games, which was further characterized by the blistering 3D games of Namco. Ridge Racer and Tekken† Launched exclusively in Japan for the GameCube in 2002, the cartoonish 2D game was arguably a swan song for the studio’s legacy as an ’80s arcade juggernaut. Thankfully, today’s updated, translated version leaves well enough with Tranquility: The pure gameplay experience returns with 1080p-friendly touches.

$30 might be a bit high for this classic game, but it’s the best Mr. Driller game ever made, and it’s a remarkable love letter to the Namco of yesteryear.

Clearing a path to a flow state

And honestly, I’m glad I have this very happy and weird game now.

Like other puzzle games of its time, drilling land comes with a silly and largely unnecessary plot, and it features the same Japanese voice acting as in the 2002 version. mr. Driller and his friends are invited to visit a fictional amusement park, and each attraction twists or changes the core Mr. Driller gameplay formula with some thematic gimmicks. (His friends, if you’re wondering, include his dad – as in, the guy who starred in Dig Dug— and a happy, talking dog named Puchi.)

One of these attractions is essentially a port of others Mr. Driller games, because it simply asks players to dig, dig, dig. Your primary goal is to dig as deep as possible through colorful blocks from the top of the screen. That may seem easy, but if you dig carelessly, you can leave hanging fragments that fall and crush you, and your digging path is complicated by “solid” blocks and a requirement to pick up oxygen tank refills. This is a high score chase mode as you get more points for clearing different depth values ​​quickly and efficiently.

Since the first Mr. Driller game launched in 1999, no other puzzle game has copied its formula. Unlike classics in color matching and piece matching, Mr. Driller emphasizes the fluid state of constant, efficient movement and digging, which benefits from spatial awareness of shapes and colors all around you. Matching other colored blocks adds to your success, and your downward digging can set color combinations in motion, so there’s a two-headed thrust to you mr. Driller DrillLand progress. That this gameplay still feels special and unique makes this 2002 reissue a worthy puzzling option for anyone who may have missed the series before.

But even if you find that puzzle system a little skimpy, the four other modes add clever twists to the formula. The best mode removes the oxygen fill requirement and converts the entire game into an Indiana Jones spoof, where you are forced to create digging paths leading to treasure picking, while avoiding traps and – oh, I love these – giant rolling rocks that Break through your digging path and threaten you, like the chase scene from Raiders† Another mode pays tribute to Namco’s classic Tower of Druaga series, because it Mr. Driller forces to take specific paths through a dungeon, collect treasures and keys and fight bosses. And a haunted house mode turns you into something of a ghostbuster, as it freezes you and traps ghosts in the blocks you’d otherwise dig through.

That’s the Puchi attitude

Between each of these challenges is a fully narrated cutscene where the Driller crew’s personalities collide on a dizzying Saturday morning, and while you can press buttons to skip this one, I recommend not to. to do. The whole package shines with DayGlo-clear designs – all beautifully scaled to modern screen resolutions and a 16:9 ratio – and part of the inflated $30 cost is that sometimes you have to sit back and marvel at how weird and elaborate gets the story of the game.

This should especially please anyone who still fondly remembers Katamari Damacywhich debuted on PlayStation 2 two years later drilling land‘s launch. You can see the seeds of katamaric‘s crazy plot and King Of All Cosmos character planted by the saccharine-sweet tastes of the Driller family. In the meantime, drilling landThe perky J-Pop soundtrack, presented here in full fidelity, is not identical to katamaric‘s classic tunes, but the up-tempo charm and vocal melody components are almost identical.

The madness doesn’t stop there. You can load a long, music-activated parade sequence at any time, where several Drillcharacters from the series stomp across your screen, almost-but-not-quite in time with the music. There is no way to fail this mode; it’s not technically “gameplay”, and you can only change it by pressing a joystick to change the pace of the demonstrators. Why is this in the game? I have no idea. But now I kind of wish every video game had an optional parade sequence as a fun diversion. (just think how) TLOU2‘s post-apocalyptic Seattle might look like with its mutated monsters stomping to the music while holding the batons.)

To round out the pack, the game includes a few four-player battle modes. One is a parallel race through standard Mr. Driller gameplay, where each player races to dig through identical content, and the other is a ho-hum battle mode where players dig through the same split screen in search of randomly placed treasure. The latter feels unfair as a versus game, while the former is pretty meager with its fighting and “garbage” mechanics. Still, as four-player family-friendly modes, they’re better than nothing (but don’t work online, unfortunately).

Nit picks, not deal breakers

The biggest downside to the whole package is the $30 price tag, which is high for a 2002 reissue. As far as “new” content goes, you get a newly translated script (no new English voice acting), an admittedly smooth upscaling of the original 2D items to 1080p resolution and a new “casual” difficulty level – what I should be blunt with is far from casual. mr. Driller DrillLand can be quite unforgiving for new players due to how fast the falling block fragments fall and harm your character, and entire runs will be wiped out due to a very limited pool of lives. (Casual mode only adds one extra life to each mode, which, I must say, doesn’t suddenly make the pack newbie-friendly.)

Even worse, the digital download of the game does not include any manual, so you will try to answer serious questions about the game. Which levels should I play first? Do shiny blocks, which disappear after a certain amount of time, mean anything in a level? Why are the “level 2” and “level 3” sections of each individual mode not unlocked? Does it make sense to spend in-game coins on a collectible shelf? And how do all items in the item shop work? The last question is crucial, as beginners will rely on that item store and not “casual” mode to survive their first sessions. Any guidance in the game would be appreciated.

So it is not a perfect collection. Still, I’ll take a reissue that is stubbornly old-school over the microtransaction alternative. drilling land is exactly the kind of unique, satisfying and cute puzzle action game I want right now, and the brand new look on the portable Nintendo Switch is especially welcome. (And since the iOS $1 version of the 2009 series is dead thanks to a lack of 64-bit update, we’ll have to settle for this week’s solid port.)

By akfire1

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