Drill Dozer

Game Boy Advance
Developed by Game Freak Inc.

Published by Nintendo

Released: 2006/02/06

Reviewed: 2006/02/23

by Jonathan Leung (JonLeung)



Not yet phased out by the DS, the Game Boy Advance still has some new and upcoming games that are worth checking out.  Of its recent releases, Drill Dozer is one of those that deserves your time.

This game was developed by Game Freak, best known for their Pokémon franchise.  But Game Freak isn't a one-trick pony (or Ponyta, as it were), and this solid game experience stands up well by itself.

You play as Jill, a young girl who is now the leader of a band of thieves after her father is injured.  Armed with the Drill Dozer, a small mech armed with a large drill, she sets off to recover the Red Diamond, a treasure that was stolen from them by rival Skullkers.  The story has some twists...but nothing major and nothing too surprising.  However, it's more enjoyable than the narratives of most other 2D platforming games.

This safe isn't safe when Jill has a drill and some will.

That's right, it's a 2D platformer.  It's a welcome entry into this dwindling genre.  If you're old enough to remember, you will be reminded of NES and Super NES games when playing this gem.  Instead of jumping and shooting, though, you will be doing a lot of jumping and drilling, as you surely would've guessed by now.  The drill adds a lot to the game mechanics, not just as a tool of destruction, but for defense (deflecting shots), for puzzles (acting as a screwdriver or a crank), and it is very often utilized in tricky jumps.

When the drill is in use, a large gear is superimposed on the screen, showing the drilling direction and the gear-change meter.  It's a neat effect, and most of the time it isn't as distracting as it sounds.  The drill is controlled using the shoulder buttons.  The drill spins clockwise with the R button, and counter-clockwise with the L button.  For most enemies, you can drill through them either way, but in some situations you will need to specifically use a particular direction instead of the other, or switch between them.  In a wall jump, for example, you would need to jump to a surface that the drill can latch onto (usually an indestructible "jelly block"), drill it, then reverse the direction to propel yourself off of it.

That's a common maneuver, but there are other moves that can be performed, and you'll be using everything that you learn.  The stages are varied enough to keep challenging your mastery of the drill.  These include an underwater stage and an aerial city stage, where the drill also acts as a propeller for diving and flying.  The bosses are always a treat, as the battles are different enough from each other.  In the end, they're all defeated by being drilled, but there's something satisfying about exposing or reaching a weak spot and then thrusting a big drill into it, and that never gets old.

You won't get "screwed" if you buy this game 'cause you won't get "bored" of it.  However, getting screwed or bored is what happens to your enemies.

Unfortunately, the game is a little bit on the short side, with only six stages with one or two areas each.  However, each stage also has one secret area, and there are a total of 31 treasures to collect.  After finishing the story, I only had three of those treasures, getting me a rank of a mere "Pickpocket".  Going back to look for them and increase your rank (up to "Crime Boss") will add some replay value.  And the secret areas will test your drill-handling skills to the maximum.

Probably designed with the Game Boy Micro's bright screen in mind, the graphics are big, bright, and sharp.  They're cartoon-like and appropriate for the game; only in a cartoon could you get away with drilling through enemies.  The music is more than decent, with both the menu tune and boss battle tracks being particularly catchy.  The cartridge is equipped with a built-in Rumble Pak, which adds a little bit to the experience of handling a power tool.

This game is recommended, particularly if you're a fan of oldschool 2D platforming action.  If you have a DS, you'll soon be able to play Super Princess Peach and the New Super Mario Bros. as well, but even so, as the genre isn't as prominent as it used to be, it wouldn't hurt to pick this one up, too.  The sheer fun of being destructive with a big drill combined with solid level design makes this an enjoyable and unique gaming experience.