>by Aron Deppert
Mr. Driller is an arcade-style action puzzler that has seen iterations on just about everything that has ever been capable of playing video games, even the long-forgotten Wonder Swan. Mr. Driller’s town is being overrun by colored blocks from an unknown source, and it is up to you to guide him through the bowels of the earth to destroy them with your trusty drill. During your adventure you must not only maintain your ever-dwindling air supply, but you also have to avoid getting crushed to death by falling blocks.
Saying that the game play in Mr. Driller is frantic is putting things mildly. As you are drilling, you are creating chain reactions in the realm of blocks above you that could lead to loose blocks falling on your adorable pink head. Seeking shelter under a stable section of blocks that are the same color can buy you some time, since the blocks stick to ones of the same color. While your tiny, frail form is being threatened by death from above, you are fighting to keep your air supply full. The rate that the air disappears suggests that either Mr. Driller’s tank has sprung a leak, or he is prone to hyperventilating! You refill the air by gathering little air capsules, which are usually surrounded by “X Blocks” which you loose 20% of your air for drilling through. I often have wished there were Xanax capsules instead, to ease the feeling of impending doom I get while playing this game.
I can has Xanax plz?
My only real beef with this game is the very half-assed attempt at a plot. This type of game isn’t really the type that needs a plot to begin with, but if you’re going to create one, you might as well do it right. The story is simply stated as, “The town is being overrun by colored blocks! Everybody is in a panic! Quick, call Mr. Driller! GO DRILLER GO! DRILL AS FAST AS YOU CAN!” Then there are some pictures of Mr. Driller and some weird, but cute, blue blobby creatures floating around on the screen. Never once did Namco feel the need to tell us where these blocks are coming from, why they are so dangerous, or that Mr. Driller is Dig Dug’s son, which seems like an important detail since this game was originally meant to be Dig Dug 3.
All complaints aside, this game is fantastic and has been a long-time favorite of mine. Bright colors and cute Japanese cartoon graphics come together with berserk action puzzler game play to make Mr. Driller the gem that it is. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who has played any version of it and didn’t immediately fall in love, despite the game’s high level of difficulty and steep learning curve. Check it out in any way you can get your hands on it, just be sure you have some sort of anti-anxiety medication nearby.
Image Credit: Screenshot, VG Museum