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Mr Driller: Drill Spirits

The second, not the minute, but the second I started playing Mr Driller: Drill Spirits on the NDS I felt a mix of emotions that more or less cancelled each other out, leaving me in a state of equilibrium. I mean, the whole idea of buying something is so that you get to play with it and show it off; it’s supposed to be exciting until you get bored of it. The thing was, I’d seen it all before, way back in its original form on the Dreamcast. That lovely cream-coloured machine, the memories!

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Never mind, eh? At least it’s still true to its original in terms of the main gameplay as nothing has been added to complicate the matter of ridding those oh-so-horrible blocks that are coming up from underground. I don’t know why other developers feel they have to create such a huge background story when ‘overflowing blocks from the underground and only Mr Driller can save them’ is such a blatantly great story and very much overlooked. There are, however, a wealth of added extras: unlockable characters and their differing stats, Driller shop goodies, multiplayer, time attack, Pressure Driller, and so many more Goal depths. It’s got touchscreen controls as well as D-pad, but you won’t be using those after you’ve tried it for 5-seconds; it’s annoying and slow.

The idea of the game is to reach a specified depth under surface level (the deeper you choose, the more difficult). You have to drill through multicoloured blocks and, just like other puzzle games you’ve seen, connecting four or more of the same colour removes all of those at once. You can drill up, down, left or right to move yourself through the maze of blocks. Whilst you are drilling you are continuously depleting your air supply but you can replenish this by picking up air capsules. Yes, the concept is ridiculously easy, but it really is frustratingly difficult at times (and even more so if, like me, you’re just crap). With the main storyline game, you get the choice of 300-metres, 500m, 800m, 1000m, 1500m and 2000m – I’m very close to completing 1000m which will be the second time I’ll have ever reached that depth. For every depth-level you complete, you open up a new character who has different stats such as movement speed, or air consumption speed. Oh, and there’s this really terrible ‘story’ going on about how you meet all these playable characters – it’s crap, but at least it’s got voice overs – which are equally as crap.

Time Attack sees you racing against the clock as successfully doing so opens up more Time Attack levels, of which there are ten in total. And then they give you the mirror mode Time Attack with even tighter time limits, which is practically impossible in my opinion! You’ll play the first two or three and see its randomness, but the latter levels show some truly great level design and will definitely make you smile at its cleverness.

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Pressure Driller, a new addition from the DC, sees you drilling again but with a boss chasing you downwards in a big ****-off drilling machine a la Total Recall. The boss has health points which you must decrease to zero by shooting fireballs at his flower that pops up every so often. Fireballs are obtained by picking up the Power capsules (like the air capsules, but in red) of which you can store up to three to unleash a more powerful fireball. Done that and the level is complete. There are no lives in this mode, but getting squashed by falling blocks slows you down while the boss is still travelling downwards, plus you lose your power-up fireballs.

The Driller Shop contains a load of helpful goodies that can be purchased with points. There are two categories of goodies; those for the main storyline game, and those for the Pressure Driller. Up for grabs are extra lives, faster drilling, being able to take one hit before losing a life, and getting 5% more air per air capsule. The pay-with-points system is simple. Every time you play Mr Driller in any of the modes above, you’ll find a mileage value at the top of the top-screen and, just like in cars, this represents how many miles (or metres, as one block is a metre high) you’ve travelled. So you can see how long you’ve been playing the game for. When I noticed this, I thought it was excellent because it’s just like you get in racing games – such a simple premise put in place for something so completely different – excellent stuff.

Finally, multiplayer allows up to 5 gamers to compete against each other. Each player has their own maze, but the maze is the same for all gamers – this essentially means that each person is playing against a ghost of his/her opponents’ (which are visible on screen). So it’s a case of getting to the bottom faster than others and not having to worry about trying to bury your mates. I’ve heard that in the Japanese version, you only needed one copy of the game and it would send the data over WiFi to other NDSes but with the USA (and presumably PAL) version, you each need a copy. There’s no multiplaying over the internet either, which is a shame.

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But somehow, Mr Driller: Drill Spirits does not feel the same as with the DC version. Maybe because it’s on such a small screen where as on a PC monitor (I had a DC VGA cable) all the blocks are big, bright and bold. Maybe because it’s nothing new. But it lacks that something that had kept MKDS in my DS all that time before – granted it was the only game I had, but still, I’ve not played Mr Driller as much as MKDS.

It was either Mr Driller or Zoo Keeper or Polarium. With Mr Driller I knew I couldn’t lose as, for all its lack in emotion, it’s still a classic favourite. Zoo Keeper has got some addictive elements, but I didn’t know if it would last as long as Mr Driller. Polarium sounded great but limited due to there being a set number of puzzles (even though you could create your own and share them with others), so that was considered a final resort. I needed a puzzle-game fix and past memories of Mr Driller seemed to translate so well to a handheld. Come to think of it, Mr Driller on the NDS is slightly lacking that heart-pounding risk-taking element that made the DC version so great. The culprit seems to be the dual-screen, since you can see what’s coming from above.

Actually, what I would really love is for Sega to bring out a reinvigorated Chu Chu Rocket; it would be perfect for the wireless aspect. Come on, Sega, how about it then?

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2007.

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