Mr. Driller Drill Spirits
By Zach Patterson Wednesday, 7 Feb 2007

Mr. Driller DS is a competent puzzle game, but really does little to separate itself from other titles in the series. The game is still basically the same game as the Playstation and GBA incarnations. In other words, if you have played one game in the series before, you will be very familiar with this. If you are not familiar with Mr. Driller, here’s a quick synopsis: you are the son of Dig Dug and you drill deep into the earth, either going to a certain depth or escaping from a threat coming from above after you. As you drill, you will encounter obstacles that force you to move horizontal, and you will need to continually look for air power-ups to keep alive. Moving horizontal in turn brings the above ground down on you unless it is already connected to a stable point, so you must be careful. Along the way, you obtain power-ups and can make large combos by matching like ground colors together when they collapse.

The game now takes place on both screens, though the top screen just shows the blocks and threats above you. Since the game moves so fast, it is rare that there is really enough time to look up, so aside from one or two modes, this is essentially useless. Also, the game is now playable completely with the stylus, though why you would want to do that is beyond me. It’s a hassle to use the stylus to break blocks when you can do it much faster with the control pad and buttons.

The game is very colorful and has great menus, but the graphics while playing are actually rather unimpressive. The look is identical to the 2002 GBA game Mr. Driller 2, and character sprites, regardless of which character used, are small and not that detailed. The blocks are the real star of the game, as they alternate patterns as well as bright and dull colors.

For some horrible reason, they decided to add the most annoying voices possible in this, and it makes nearly every between level cutscene unbearable to listen to. The voices are loud, obnoxious, poorly acted, and sound like they are reading a script which has nearly no comprehension of the english language.

Namco seemed to realize that the game has relatively little replay value compared to other puzzlers, and included unlockable characters and a store to buy new items, along with several modes, which is a nice incentive. The gameplay itself, however, tends to be pretty frustrating, and even the first few levels in story mode are very hard to get through easily. Once you really get moving, it gets very difficult to avoid falling blocks, and simply becomes a race to the bottom. In some ways it becomes more of an action game rather than a puzzle game, due to the fact that you spend less time trying to figure out where the safest place is, and more time instinctually running straight downward as fast as possible. Another particularly annoying feature is that while the game has multiplayer modes, it requires 2 carts to actually play. Considering that most every game nowadays has download play of some sort, and Mr. Driller is not going to be a game owned by many people, this seems like laziness on Namco’s part. The game is essentially a prettied-up GBA game, so it should not be too taxing to do so.

Mr. Driller has never been a bad series, and this game is, more or less, the same gameplay the series is known for. I don’t know however, how good the gameplay really is to warrant recycling the formula this many times. It could certainly stand to see some new modes of play and a bit of a change to the formula.