The GBA is a wonderful 2D gaming machine. Unfortunately, with its life cycle coming to an end, new releases for the system will become more rare as time goes on. However, games like Drill Dozer help extend the life of the console by offering a breath of fresh air.
Originally called Screw Breaker (gee, I wonder why Nintendo changed the title), Drill Dozer is a 2D platformer developed by Game Freak, the same developer as the extremely popular Pokemon series. Players take the role of Jill, a pink haired goofy looking anime style character who is the leader of a band of honorable thieves. What makes Drill Dozer a unique game is the drill dozer machine itself. This machine closely resembles the magic-tek armor found on SNES?s Final Fantasy VI except with a drill extending out of each arm. Jill pilots this mech-like machine, drilling not only through walls and barriers to create new passageways, but the drills are also used to attack enemies and solve puzzles.
Luckily, the game?s control scheme has been well crafted for piloting this different kind of machine. The ?A? button jumps while the ?B? button is used to scroll the screen, look at your surroundings, and active switches. But the drill is controlled with the shoulder buttons. ?R? rotates the drill clockwise, while ?L? spins the drill counterclockwise. The direction of the drill?s spin is a key factor in many of the game?s platforming puzzles.
The designers of this game did a decent job of creating new content spread conveniently throughout each stage. Right when you think you have done everything with your drill, a new puzzle will hinder your progress, forcing you to use your drill in a new way. For example, your drill can be used to rocket yourself to new heights. There are some special blocks spread throughout the game that can be used almost like a trampoline. However, there is a trick to using this block properly. First, the player must start to drill the block with ?R? button, but when enough momentum has been gained the player must quickly slam on the ?L? button. This reverse thrust will launch the player across gaps. The drill is also used in many other ways like screwing things in and out, forming new paths and platforms.
Having only drills as your only form of attack and motion, it can be assumed to grow old and stale rather quickly, but each stage and boss battle offers something new. Most stages end with one of these creative boss fights. One of your teammates usually announces their weakness just before the battle begins via radio conversation, but it is still up to the player to figure out how to damage the enemy. Many bosses force the player to use the drill creatively like grabbing and launching missiles back at your opponent while using the proper spin motion, or using an enemy?s arm as a platform to reach the weak spot on its head. The variety in the level design and boss battles are really used in creative fashions, helping extend the replay value of the game.
The Drill Dozer?s drill strength can be increased. The player always starts each level with a level one drill. However, it can be powered up to level two then level three after drill gears are found within each stage. Once these drill icons are collected, the player can then power up the drill to the next level. These power-ups are used by simply tapping and holding down the corresponding shoulder button once the previous level has reached maximum strength. Gaining new drill strength allows the player to break down stronger barriers, reach new heights, and kill stronger enemies.
The game offers new ways of controlling your drill dozer in the later stages of the game. However, these flying and swimming stages are more awkward and cumbersome rather than entertaining. These stages require you to use your drill to move (either the ?R? or ?L? buttons) as opposed to just simply using the D-pad to move/walk. The water stage makes controlling your drill dozer like that of a submarine. These slow and clumsy movements will cause the player unnecessary enemy hits and unwanted deaths. Plus, it really slows the gameplay down because you have to constantly recharge your drill in order to advance. And the boss at the end of the flying level is by far the most annoying and frustrating. It is so frustrating in fact, it wouldn?t surprise me if this level was the sole purpose players put down this game forever.
The graphics are pretty well crafted for a GBA game although they are far from the system?s best. Every sprite on screen looks clear and colorful, but lack significant detail. But one the biggest problems within the graphics department is the drill meter indicator. When the player begins drilling, a white meter will literally take up half the screen, indicating when the next drill level can be reached. While this drill meter is clear and serves its purpose, it can get in the way of the rest of the action on screen because of its size.
Unfortunately, the music is extremely annoying. Because the game is developed by Game Freak, many of the game?s musical score resemble that of Pokemon?s but with a touch of MegaMan techno-like themes. But the musical score reflects what level drill the player has at that point. For example, when the player reaches drill level three, the same old level three musical score will play over and over again. Once you hear this same musical track at the end of level two, you will want to shut your music off. The music starts off fine, but it is just way too annoying and repetitive.
One of the best additions to this game is its built in rumble function. This rumble function is built directly into the GBA cart, causing bumps and rumbles in correspondence of what is going on during gameplay. Nowadays though, we take the rumble feature for granted because every console game since N64 has had it. However, the rumble feature actually makes a big difference in the gameplay. To prove this true, play this game without the rumble feature to see how lame it would be without it. While the rumble doesn?t work as well in the DS cart slot due to its bigger system size, it works great in your GBA SP. Plus, you can pop this game in your GameBoy Player and play the game with the rumbles with your standard GC controller. The game scores extra points by adding this rumble pak feature as it uses it so well and is one of the very few GBA games to support it.
Unfortunately, the biggest disappointment is lack of any kind of multiplayer mode. The game?s mechanics just scream Vs competition. Plus, Game Freak basically created the best use of Nintendo?s Wireless Link as they were packaged with every Pokemon game. Not having a wireless link function is an incredible let down and should have been placed within the final product. The only replay value is repeating previously viewed stages after you have powered up your Drill Dozer with new features in hopes of finding each stage?s hidden treasure.
Drill Dozer is probably going to be labeled as one of the GBA?s last decent games. While far from perfect, Drill Dozer does bring a fair amount of entertainment to the GBA?s small screen. If you are a fan of platformers, and want to experience it with a drilling machine, this unique game will please 2D fans. Just expect to be let down in the replay value and sound department. And the flying and swimming levels are just plain annoying. But GBA owners should play this game for its uniqueness. So go ahead and don?t be afraid to screw something.