To fully appreciate Mr. Driller, we need to take a step back and travel back to the year 1982 and revisit an arcade classic called Dig Dug. This was a simple yet hugely compelling coin-up experience as players dug through the ground and took on various foes as they went from stage to stage. The Dig Dug character, given the name of Taizo Hori, was in fact the original “Mr. Driller” himself, who then went on to have a son named Susumu Hori, who is the pink and blue Mr. Driller we all know and love.
No doubt Mr. Driller is a beloved arcade icon, and so to finally have him on Xbox again is both welcome and long overdue, thanks to the epic release of Mr. Driller DrillLand. This marks the second ever appearance for the character and series on Xbox platforms since 2008’s Mr. Driller Online on Xbox 360. While the 2008 Live Arcade release was far from being an acclaimed classic (the game kind of flopped, really), the latest on Xbox does the series’ namesake justice and more.
Mr. Driller DrillLand is a HD remaster of the 2002 Nintendo GameCube title of the exact same name, and this remaster work first launched for PC and Nintendo Switch back in 2020 before making its way to Xbox and other platforms recently. At the time, the original GameCube game was seen as the most ambitious and content heavy Mr. Driller game to date, and no doubt a lavish production for a humble puzzle platformer. To this day it is considered to be one of the best titles in the GameCube catalogue, and even in 2021 it’s not really hard to see why. If anything, it’s great to see this title reach more players than it ever could have back in 2002.
The remaster work here is crisp and pristine; it essentially restores an already brilliant looking title to make the most out of modern resolutions. One thing that needs to be said about DrillLand is how it holds nothing back on stylistic presentation. This is a sensory overload of pure joy, with a ‘60s style sci-fi presentation bolstered with an ‘80s manga vibe. The game opens up with a song which sounds like something straight out of an old school Japanese children’s TV show, and this really sets the tone for the rest of the experience and presentation. It needs to be emphasized here how the soundtrack of the game is just exceptionally brilliant and genre blending. The music is so memorable that diehard Mr. Driller fans may even want to hunt down the Japanese import CD release of the official soundtrack. This is a game with such an endearing and charming presentation that you can’t help but just lose yourself into it and have fun with it all.
So, the game has Mr. Driller and friends arrive at an amusement park where everything is well and good, except much like the premise of Sonic Colors: Ultimate most recently, something sinister lurks in the dark, because there’s no such thing as too good of a thing. Still, the band of heroes have fun with what they have, and the best part is you as the player will too as you explore the wealth of game modes and extra unlockable content on offer. These extras are usually in the form of fun in-game collectibles but also includes a wealth of gallery and museum content too. It’s worth noting that as a remaster of a 2002 GameCube title, the Xbox release comes with everything that was crammed into that tiny little optical disc back in the day, and more. No silly DLC practices here.
What comes new to this remaster release is online multiplayer, but unfortunately it seems people are too busy playing something like Call of Duty Vanguard to populate the Xbox servers of a new Mr. Driller. Occasionally you may meet someone, but at the time of release and review numbers are seriously lacking. It has local co-op too, and if you have enough people for it then it’s just as addictive as it was back in 2002. Better yet, and although not entirely necessarily, there is a new casual difficulty setting. Mr. Driller was never a difficult game by any stretch of the imagination, but if an easier setting can welcome more players in, then more the merrier as they say.
For the uninitiated, the core Mr. Driller gameplay involves drilling through the ground much like 1982’s Dig Dug in platformer fashion, except here players are dealing with coloured blocks with mechanical conventions that feel like a mix between Puyo Puyo and Tetris. As players drill through the blocks, they can activate chains when same-coloured blocks are lumped together. As players make their way down the screen, they constantly need to keep an eye on oxygen levels and replenish these with pickups. That’s the core of Mr. Driller, and like any good puzzle game it is simple in concept and yet engaging in execution, as players navigate and drill through coloured blocks to rack up a high score. This core experience remains intact in DrillLand, except it offers a lot more on top of the base game design.
The core traditional puzzle gameplay is offered as is in the DrillLand World Tour mode, but in addition the game includes modes that present compelling variations of this template. The Hole of Druaga adds a neat little dungeon RPG adventure twist as players seek out a key to unlock the dungeon door. Star Driller mode is a slightly souped-up version of the classic Mr. Driller gameplay, whereas Horror Night House changes things up a fair bit as players need to deal with ghosts travelling within the coloured blocks. Finally, there’s the Drindy Adventure mode, which is perhaps an homage to 1982’s Dig Dug; featuring rolling blocks and the like. All these variations are enjoyable in their own right and really change up the basic rules when it comes to chaining coloured blocks. There’s something here for everyone to enjoy, and it’s all presented intuitively too. Icing on the cake? There are boss encounters too.
The thing about puzzle games like Mr. Driller is that less really is more, as it gives the game a timeless appeal similar to the likes of Tetris. This is a game which immediately clicks and offers a gameplay loop which remains novel and fresh no matter how many times you play it. The base concept is already strong, and in this release there are several compelling variations of this puzzle concept and more. It’s a real winner, it does exactly what you want a puzzle action game to do.
Mr. Driller DrillLand on Xbox is an enormous release, one which revamps a true classic that is worth playing even today. The core Mr. Driller gameplay is at its very best here, and is situated in an experience which offers a ton of gameplay variety and extra content. To top it off, the presentation alone will win you over with its charm and fabulous soundtrack. There is no doubt that this is up there with the best pure puzzle experiences your Xbox money can buy.
You can buy Mr. DRILLER DrillLand from the Xbox Store