IGN Review of Drill Dozer
Though the GBA may be fading into the shadows to make room for the DS, Nintendo refuses to let the system be left behind. Back at E3, Nintendo drove the point home by releasing the Micro, proving that it was serious about being a three pillar company. A system is nothing without continually fresh software, however, and for a while the GBA has been home to nothing but double dip bundles and feeble attempts at licensed products. Luckily, a breath of fresh air is hitting store shelves soon. Drill Dozer, Game Freak's latest addition to the pocket world, combines a fresh play mechanic with a dose of good old fashioned platforming.
Drill Dozer follows the story of Jill, the youngest member of a gang of thieves known as the Red Dozers. All was well until a rival gang of ruffians, known as the Skullers, stole the red diamond from Jill's gang. It's now up to the young girl to lead her comrades in a struggle against evil. The adventure opens with a style all its own, boasting high production value from the get-go. Huge pieces of artwork are used for the menus (making this game very micro-friendly), and the interface layout itself adds to the look and feel of the world. Each level ends with a cut-scene of Jill jumping aboard a moving truck, while a brief clip of full motion animation is used when major bosses are destroyed. Presentation is over-the-top wherever possible, making Drill Dozer as enjoyable to look at as it is to play.
The gameplay itself is what makes Drill Dozer truly unique. Everything is done with the drill, be it double jumping, attacking, defending, and puzzle solving. Though there is the potential to overuse an idea, Drill Dozer keeps the adventure interesting by offering tons of ways to interact in the environment. It seems that every level adds a new way to use the drill, keeping the gameplay fresh and inspired. At the same time, the fact that the whole game is based on one main concept means that nearly every puzzle or battle has to do with that one idea. When the game gets tricky, the answer is most likely to drill something. If it doesn't work, drill the opposite direction with the L button. The designers try to mix it up a little by adding platforming puzzles and object interaction that doesn't have to do with a huge freaking drill, but when it all boils down to it, the Drill Dozer robot is the focus of the game. Rather than adding a ton of elements to work with, Game Freak opted to create a game that sets up a new way to play, and uses that mechanic to the fullest. Some will love it, while others may ask for more.
What Drill Dozer does, however, it does extremely well. The adventure is constantly pulling the player through new situations. The game is reminiscent of Treasure production, as players will battle bosses the size of the screen that push the hardware to the limit, and explore a world that seems to exist beyond rules. Certain rooms will play off a single gimmick, such as stage area that constantly reveals more and more enemies as layer after layer of curtains are pulled away. Bosses wield equally huge weapons, and level design consists of huge patrolling robots and swinging chandeliers. Drill Dozer is very fulfilling from a graphical perspective, and the combination of crazy bosses and continuously fresh environments present a feast for your eyes.
Along with impressive stylized presentation and an innovative gameplay mechanic, Drill Dozer also comes complete with a rumble cart, used to add further immersion to the unique gameplay. While the cart isn't as powerful as the DS one, used for Metroid Prime Pinball and Mario and Luigi, it still rumbles well throughout the bulk of a DS. In fact, Micro players are in for even more of an experience, as the rumble can be felt a ton though the tiny system. The rumble function can be used at multiple intensity levels, so every time the Drill Dozer shifts up, so does the pack itself. While it isn't a feature that makes or breaks the game, it's an excellent addition to an already impressive package.
While a game may look artistic and play exceptionally, it is nothing without enjoyable environments to explore. Drill Dozer's level design does a great job of teasing the player, providing alternate routes that will eventually shepherd the player back to the puzzle's focus in a roundabout way, rather than forcing them to backtrack. The storyline requires the player to revisit previous levels as well, and much like in Mega Man, certain areas can be opened up at later points in the game for extra items and treasures. Since the game is open-ended, an overwhelming sense of freedom is given, especially when the possibility for secret areas is constantly lurking in the back of your mind. This is another area where some players may begin to be frustrated though, since navigating these levels still consists of drilling, drilling, and more drilling.
Along with impressive graphical presentation and an enthusiastic design comes a remarkable audio package. Drill Dozer's musical score could fit nicely in the Mega Man franchise, complete with inspiring techno music that captures the mood of scripted events and battles alike. Most importantly, the amount of drill sounds used really helps to give audio cues to the player. Using only the audio, it is possible to tell how much damage an attack is doing, when to shift gears, or whether or not a chunk of wall can be broken through. The only other game to use sound in such a manner is Zelda for SNES, allowing players to actually tap the walls of labyrinths to find secrets otherwise impossible to discover. It may be commonly overlooked, but a solid audio performance can add to a game just as much as the graphical design. A few more songs would have been helpful, as many are used multiple times. All in all, however, the audio presentation is notably impressive.
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