Drilbert, a puzzle game currently in development on PC, has helped erase the horrors of Boulder Dash and Repton.
Don’t get us wrong, we got a major kick out of Boulder Dash and its Acorn Electron clone, Repton. But, playing sequel Repton 2 – and some of its follow-ups, there were many hair-tearing moments. Usually, that was when we realised one wrong move had rendered the whole game incompletable. Drilbert has managed to take that trauma and crush it beneath a big rock.
Mentally, Drilbert is more taxing than Repton and company. But what stops it becoming an exercise in frustration is that you can undo your moves, one by one. So when a slab of granite crushes the coins you were supposed to collect, you can back-step through your blunder.
Unlike Boulder Dash, your drill headed little guy is relatively beholden to gravity. They can dig through dirt, straddle gaps and walk up and down walls, but they can’t just step into the void. It’ll take you a while to get used to Drilbert’s movements, but once you do you’re in for a treat.
It’s the work of solo dev Tom Mason, and while it’s gameplay sets it apart from Boulder Dash its pixel-art aesthetic gives it a healthy dose of retro appeal. There aren’t any monsters to tackle but unless you’re dead set on turning enemies into small smears, you won’t miss it.
Instead, the real joy of Drilbert is scratching your head, figuring out the correct path, or paths, to make it through each level. We can dig through Dirt Block A and.. oh, bugger, that brought Rock Outcrop C down, right on top of that coin. Okay, time to try again. This time, let’s go for that other patch of earth.. that worked. Now let’s do this one next and.. arse.. now we can’t reach the end of level flag.
The game doesn’t throw you in at the deep end. But by the time you’re five or six levels in you’ll be doing your best to think ahead. The undo feature is excellent but what’s even more satisfying is not needing it, because you figured it out things were going to fall.
We found ourselves keeping a mental tally of how many times we’d had to undo per level, feeling thoroughly smug as we watched that number drop. And then, a few levels later, the game threw dynamite into the mix. That didn’t end well but, by then, Drilbert had really got our attention.
This retro-styled puzzler isn’t out just yet, though the developer is aiming for a 2023 release. You can download a demo right now and wishlist it on Steam here. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to shaking our fists at Superior Software.