Mr. DRILLER DrillLand (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 28.08.2020

Review for Mr. DRILLER DrillLand  on Nintendo Switch

For many, Mr. DRILLER DrillLand is going to be a completely new experience. The original game was released way back in 2002 on the GameCube, but only in Japan - back when Nintendo was set on its region-locking madness. A few got hold of it via import, or other means, but mostly this entry in the Namco franchise was lost on the West... until now! The company has dug up this lost joy and given it an overhaul fitting with its kawaii nature, resulting in an aesthetic that screams 'Kid's Saturday Morning Anime.'

Western audiences may be more familiar with Mr Driller's father than the star of the show here. Driller Taizo starred in the retro classic Dig Dug the game that birthed this little franchise of mining madness. He is on hand and playable here, along with his son Susumu - the main character in the series - and a group of family and friends off exploring the titular DrillLand. A theme park made up of five different attractions, each home to a different drill-based series of stages. Each of the areas has the same basic gameplay, but with some unique elements. The core gameplay involves drilling downward through stacks of coloured blocks, destabilizing the fragile house of cards the character is descending, and avoiding the subsequent falling blocks before they become a crushing end.

Along the way, there is also an oxygen gauge to keep an eye on, drilling blocks take away that oxygen, and it needs to be restored to continue. With these groups of coloured blocks, should they fall and result in groups of blocks more than four together, the blocks vanish like a line in Tetris. It's another element that can quickly change how things are going in a level when suddenly unplanned blocks start vanishing, setting off chains that can clear huge swathes of sections. All of the stages can be chosen right from the get-go. A good place to start within the park is World DrillTour. This is a very vanilla entry into the gameplay. A generic set of levels with no unique elements. Here any of the Drilling characters can be selected, the standard stage elements are all the same and the goal is just to reach the 500-meter goal.

Screenshot for Mr. DRILLER DrillLand  on Nintendo Switch

There's an Indiana Jones-style Drindy Adventure, where a Fedora wearing Driller has to traverse a Temple that looks particularly Doom-ish, collecting certain Golden Idol Statues and avoiding rolling boulders. In these stages joining up four or more coloured blocks does not remove the blocks. The aim is simple enough here. Collect at least 10 Golden Idols and reach the goal at the bottom of the stage. Rolling boulders are only the first danger too, as tricks and traps line the walls as the descent progresses. In the Horror Night House, ghosts creep within blocks and attack the Driller if the blocks are broken, that is unless Holy Water is used to exorcise them first.

Holy water pickups are scattered through the stage and when thrown they spread through the blocks they are splashed on, weakening any ghosts within them. Drill those same blocks and the ghosts within will drop special crystals that are needed to progress to the next level. Within the Hole of Druaga, the game takes on something of an RPPG twist. Instead of drilling straight down this attraction sets out stages with multiple areas to explore, with key items to find. Usable items are scattered through the stages which can be used to blast blocks, change colours, give power-ups and more. The stages are also filled with evil knights and sorcerers to battle against and at the conclusion a huge boss that only the items can damage. Star Driller has a space theme, where randomised power-ups can change the nature of the stage instantly. Bringing down meteor showers, changing blocks into special star blocks, or just granting minor power-ups.

Screenshot for Mr. DRILLER DrillLand  on Nintendo Switch

After completing one stage on each attraction, a boss fight rolls out, then each of the attractions gain a new set of more difficult stages. There are three stages in all with a special bonus stage at the end. Honestly even the first levels offer up a decent challenge, and by the time the final ones are unlocked, it takes some quick reactions and foresight to overcome each stage. There are thankfully two modes when playing, classic and casual, with casual toning things down somewhat. There are also equipable items to assist in the attempts, and these can be found in the local shops.

As with all theme parks, there are more than just rides here. There are also plenty of shops and other attractions to explore. This is within the Drill Town. On one half of it there's a set of buildings to explore the story. The DrillLand Library gives a host of lore on the characters and games in the series; the Movie Theatre gives the opportunity to rewatch any of the FMVs seen in the game thus far; and, finally, the Music Theatre to listen to all of the tracks. On the opposite side of the street are a series of shops. These take the 'Bits' currency, which is collected just by playing any of the stages.

Screenshot for Mr. DRILLER DrillLand  on Nintendo Switch

A Card shop sells three packs of random cards. There are 50 in total to collect. There's also a Goods Shop to collect various souvenirs from the park. Finally, there is an Item Shop that is the most effective in the game. Here power-ups can be purchased for specific stages within each of the different lands - such as starting out with extra speed, a protective bubble which can absorb a single hit, more lives, and the like, though using these removes the ability to set a high score on the stage.

Setting a high score is one of many things to bring people back for more. Even more so with the multiplayer. Up to four players are supported, and things get fast and furious when all four players are racing to the bottom. The nature of the game itself is just perfect for replaying - addictive and fun time after time. Even more so on the Switch where the individual stages seem perfectly designed for bite-sized gaming sessions on the go.

Screenshot for Mr. DRILLER DrillLand  on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

A wonderful puzzler with a marvellous aesthetic. Like a children's anime come to life, Mr. DRILLER DrillLand is utterly charming and delightful. Every attraction looks great, delivering sharp, vibrant, and colourful stages in every attraction. As good as it looks, it plays even better. A simple and addictive core basis that has the heart of a classic matching colour puzzler but adds an exhilarating twist to the proceedings with the drilling mechanics. This should be a no brainer purchase, but there's something that will put off many players. It's called the Atlantic Ocean. For some reason, the asking price is literally double in the US than it is in the EU. A baffling and disappointing decision that will sadly stop this reaching as many homes as it should.

Developer

Bandai Namco

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Puzzle

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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