He’s been around since the late 90s but now he’s back for your drilling pleasure.
Mr. DRILLER DrillLand first released for GameCube in Japan way back in 2002. Some 18 years later, someone at Bandai Namco decided it might be worth releasing in the west, and so the game is now available on Switch and PC. You’d never guess it’s a game old enough to drink; thanks to updated graphics and some shiny animated cutscenes, it’s a beautiful-looking game.
Not that it’s a game you play for its visual fidelity. Mr. DRILLER DrillLand is an arcade classic through-and-through. While its cutscenes tell a nice little story and introduce you to the game’s cute characters, you probably won’t really care. You’ll just want to get to the drilling action.
“It’s a very simple premise, but one that instantly hooks you”
If you’ve played a Mr. Driller game before – there’s been several of them over the years – you’ll be familiar with the basics of Mr. DRILLER DrillLand. At its most basic, the game sees you drill down through coloured blocks. As they fall, they’ll merge with blocks of matching colour, allowing you to drill through groups at a time. If a block falls to form a group of four or more matching blocks, they’ll automatically clear, causing a chain reaction. Down and down you go, drilling through blocks and trying not to get squashed by anything falling on you in the process. It’s a very simple premise, but one that instantly hooks you.
Set in a theme park, Mr. DRILLER DrillLand has five different ‘attractions’, each making up a different game mode. DrillLand World Tour offers up the standard gameplay as described above; Star Driller is similar, but instead takes the action into space and throws in special blocks and power-ups; Drindy Adventure is an Indiana Jones-inspired mode where you need to collect gold artifacts and avoid rolling boulders; in Horror Night House you need to trap ghosts inside blocks by injecting them with holy water then destroying them; and The Hole of Druaga throws in enemies to defeat and a castle key to acquire.
Each mode plays around with that same basic concept of drilling down, but has enough merits of its own to draw you in. Once you’ve completed each mode for the first time, you’ll unlock a final ‘boss’ level – a fight against evil antagonist Dr. Manhole (yes, really).
“It’s bright, bold and colourful, and most importantly, a lot of fun to play”
Once the boss has been defeated, the game opens up, allowing you to play four levels of each of the game modes. Each level is increasingly difficult, offering up a greater challenge than the one before it. But you don’t have to complete them all if you don’t want. Since levels are score-based, there’s enough replayability simply by striving for better scores.
Alongside the five different game modes, the theme park setting of the game also offers up some side attractions. There’s a parade you can take part in, a theatre to visit to see the cutscenes, and a store where you can buy trading cards and power-ups to help you complete a level. It’s a very nicely presented package.
“Mr. DRILLER DrillLand is easy to recommend”
How much value for money you get out of Mr. DRILLER DrillLand will seemingly vary depending where you live, however. In the UK, it’s priced at £15.99 on Switch and £16.99 on Steam. That’s pretty good value; the game offers endless replayability, and it’s the sort of thing you’ll likely find yourself going back to time and time again. In America, however, Mr. DRILLER DrillLand is priced at $29.99 on both Steam and Switch (~£25). That’s around 40% more expensive, which is absurd. It’s unclear whether this is a mistake or if there’s some weird regional licensing issues which dictates the price – but it’s harder to say the game’s worth its asking price at $30.
Pricing discrepancies aside though, Mr. DRILLER DrillLand is easy to recommend. It’s bright, bold and colourful, and most importantly, a lot of fun to play. It’s simple to get the hang of, but each separate game mode requires serious practice to truly master. If you enjoy the simple pleasures of a classic arcade-style game, you can’t go far wrong here.