|Developer: Namco Bandai / Drill Team||Released: Nintendo Switch|
|Publisher: Namco Bandai||Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch|
(Distributor provided review copy)
The fifth game in the MR DRILLER series, DRILL LAND was originally published on the Nintendo Gamecube way back in 2002 in Japan, where the series has always enjoyed both critical and commercial acclaim. Yet the series has never made it properly onto the western shores, leaving fans of puzzle games woefully out of touch with the celebrated puzzler series. Now, almost 20 years later, the seminal title makes its big splash both stateside and in Europe, and the results are breathtaking.
Playing like a reverse game of TETRIS, MR DRILLER finds you playing as Susumu Hori (or one of the five other playable characters), a master driller looking for adventure. Your task in every level is to make your way down an increasingly complex series of destroyable levels before running out of oxygen. Matching equally colored blocks together will remove multiple pieces at once, while simultaneously setting up potential cave ins that will wreak havoc if you’re not careful. X-marked squares will require vigorous pummeling, which in turn will deplete your oxygen.
Despite being all vertical, the levels also provide their own navigational challenges. Apart from the aforementioned cave-ins, missing an exit room happens a little bit too often, and while Susumu can apply some basic parkour to his movement, returning back the way you came is rarely an option.
As with TETRIS, everything in MR DRILLER is easy to pick up and hard to master.
The game is split into six different game modes: world tour (the basic experience), Horror Night House, The Hole of Druaga, casual, classic, and Star Driller. Each a different variant on the main game, out of which I found the RPG-like Druaga the most rewarding. Unlike its namesake, this one actually is fun to play. It pits the player in a procedurally generated dungeon where any progression is made through immense trial and error as air depletes much faster, and the routes are rarely obvious. A casual mode rounds up the experience for first timers, while fans hungry for some nostalgia can find it in the classic recreation of the 2002 GameCube version. There’s a multiplayer mode, though curiously only locally, despite the existence of online leaderboards. Up to four players can compete either directly or indirectly on the same console, leading to some great party mayhem.
Visually the game is an absolute delight. The art is bright and colorful, harkening back to the days when games didn’t require immense detail and griminess to stand out. The HD remaster is lovingly restored with only the most minor of adjustments made to the overall UI from the original. The soundtrack by Go Shiina is an underrated masterpiece, still effortlessly catchy and fun after all these years.
MR DRILLER DRILL LAND is the kind of perfect remaster that thrives on the Nintendo Switch. It works in both short and long increments, has a great multiplayer mode, and provides endless amounts of playability thanks to stellar game design, nifty modes, and easily picked up controls. They might not make them like they used to, but the restorations are the next best thing. If you’re even remotely a fan of puzzle games, MR DRILLER is an essential must buy for the whole family.