Some of the best portable games are the ones you can pick up and play. This is partly why so many arcade games find their way on portable consoles. Most sessions last a couple of minutes and they provide relatively endless replay value, either through improved performance or higher point totals. Even though Mr. Driller DrillLand wasn’t originally an arcade game, it has all the charm you would expect from one. Between simple to learn and hard to master gameplay, a wide variety of mini-games, and various levels of difficulty, is it something to get you through the day or does it fall short of the goal?
The premise to Mr. Driller DrillLand is rather simple. Susumu Hori and his associates, including his father Taizo Hori of Dig Dug fame, are in an amusement park of sorts and need to complete various drill-based challenges to earn stamps. Doing so will work towards defeating Dr. Manhole and his plans to destroy humanity. Needless to say, even if every mini-game has a cutscene associated with it and there is a sense of progression, the story is the least important part.
Keeping true to the core concept of the original Mr. Driller games, Mr. Driller DrillLand attempts to expand the idea by giving each mini-game its own flare to change up the formula. This idea is what made the original Japanese only release so popular and a driving force behind interest for the Switch rerelease.
This all starts off with the first mini-game, Drill Land World Tour. Those familiar with the franchise will recognize it as the traditional game, so let’s start by going over how Mr. Driller works as a puzzle game.
Like all good puzzle games, Mr. Driller DrillLand is based on a rather simple concept that is shockingly hard to master. Basically, you have an oxygen gauge, which forces you to constantly move, create paths to collect air to increase your time and make it to the end. Since a lot of pieces are interconnected, there will be a lot of undesirable chain reactions, either through your own choices, random chance, or a result of you chasing after oxygen. In addition to that, chains of four or more will break when the structure falls, meaning you need to anticipate potential outcomes for destroying this or that block. Likewise, a key element to success isn’t looking down, as much as all around you. Typically oxygen is near X blocks, more sturdy blocks that take significant oxygen to destroy, though are suspectable to the four-block rule. As a result, sometimes it makes more sense to dig around, other times make a block fall and every now and then plan three or four moves ahead. All of this comes together in a wide variety of stages, each with their own challenges or thought process you need to overcome.
From here, each mini-game offers some kind of change that impacts this core formula. When you move to Horror Night House, you need to defeat ghosts hiding in blocks. This is done by collecting holy water, injecting it, and then breaking the block with them in it and grabbing the item they create. The challenge is less the core task and more realizing blockchains that might inadvertently cause you to take damage.
Drindy Adventure does little to change the core gameplay, outside of removing the oxygen and adding traps, with the goal being to collect golden statues. Similar things can also be said about Star Driller, where mysterious blocks appear that can radically impact how things work by speeding up your character or slowing down block falls. Both modes rely less on gimmicks and more so offer different takes on the core formula.
For many, the most interesting game is The Hole of Druaga, where a bunch of RPG elements is added to the game. Not only do you need to defeat a wide variety of enemies, including bosses, but there are also power-ups you can collect to increase your speed or destroy specific blocks. This is also one of the harder modes, as every choice can have a massive impact on your outcome.
Beyond the mini-games themselves, every task you complete has a score associated with it. Most of your points come from moving fast, collecting everything, and not taking damage. So, even if you master one mode, even on the highest difficulty, there are still more challenges to overcome if you so desire.
Mr. Driller DrillLand Review – Verdict
It’s easy to understand why Mr. Driller DrillLand was so beloved. The mini-games are fun, the core concept is a blast and it works amazingly well as a pickup and play the game. Adding an easier mode, so you don’t need to stress as much about difficulty was a welcome addition, plus there is just so much to do. Sure, some of the games are slight tweaks and it takes a lot of practice to be good, at least this is an experience that is worth putting in the time and seeing where that takes you.