Review by !.ACA.!

Reviewed: 05/25/06

C + ... A short platformer with some creative elements.

“C + … A short platformer with some creative elements.”

Two-dimensional platform games generally adhere to the same formula: the male hero must run, jump, climb, and shoot his way through various levels. These levels usually have a start and finish that is disconnected from the previous and next levels. Since the early 1980s, this formula has remained the same, with few groundbreaking modifications to be found.

Game Freak does not attempt to reinvent the platformer, but rather modify it in such a way that it seems fresh to the gamer. In certain ways, Drill Dozer succeeded; its main premise is certainly unorthodox—the heroine, Jill, rides a robotic device called a Drill Dozer. As its name suggests, the device’s main weapon is a drill. This is different from most platformers who use standard projectiles. Do not let this slight change fool you, though—Drill Dozer is still a typical platformer at its core.

Like most platformers, Drill Dozer’s story takes a backseat to gameplay, and in this case, it is a tried and true tale of a daughter versus her father. The stakes are bit higher than normal, though, since Jill is the leader of a gang of bandits and Jill’s father is the leader of a gang of mobsters. These two gangs, and the local police, will butt heads throughout each level, but there is little more than surface value in terms of Drill Dozer’s story.

The presentation of the story, though, is told quite nicely thanks to very bright and vivid graphics. There are many cliche cut scenes thrown in between and during levels; the game plays out like a multi-episode cartoon. After each level the team regroups at headquarters to plot out the next mission.

Each mission takes place in one of the game’s six main areas. Missions begin after the team drops off Jill, and she, alone with her Drill Dozer, must make her way to the end of the level. There are plenty of enemies and puzzles to hinder her progress, though. Luckily for her, there are upgrades to be found throughout the level that improve the Drill Dozer. These upgrades, appropriately named Second Gear and Third Gear, increase the power of the drill and the duration for which it can spin. The upgrades are not optional, however, as the level’s puzzles can only be completed by obtaining both gear upgrades.

Drill Dozer’s puzzles all rely directly on Jill’s drill, which has the ability to deflect bullets, drill though brick and steel, and operate various machinery and lifts. Most of the puzzles are fairly straightforward, though a handful of them will require quite a bit of trial and error.

Occasionally, Jill will find special parts for her Drill Dozer, such as the ability to fly or swim. These abilities—which offer a nice change of pace—only occur in a few levels, but they are very entertaining and offer Game Freak the chance to throw in a few different types of puzzles and enemies.

Jill’s enemies are normally simple to defeat, often only taking one hit from the drill. Bosses of each level are harder, and sometimes very frustrating, but once their attack pattern is deciphered it is simply a matter of time before they are defeated.

Thanks to the upgrade store (which can be visited after each level), Jill can purchase health upgrades with the money received from defeating enemies and drilling through boxes. The store also sells bonus levels and drill enhancements, but the health bonuses are the most attractive due to their low cost and huge benefit out in the field. It is not too expensive to simply load up on extra health upgrades and then plow through the levels, worrying little about the damage from enemies.

Drill Dozer is a short game, with only six areas to explore. The replay value is to be found in collecting treasures hidden throughout the levels, but these treasures are mostly useless and offer little incentive to be found. It is hard to imagine the game lasting any longer, though, because by the last mission the gameplay begins to feel worn and tired.

This late into the Game Boy Advance’s lifetime, the system is already filled with many platformers that do a lot more than Drill Dozer. Unlike these other games, however, Drill Dozer is a rather unique experience. Drill Dozer is not better or meant to replace the great platformers already on the system (Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, Castlevania, Mega Man, Metroid), but it is a welcomed change of pace for those gamers looking for a break from the big-name franchises and desiring try something new.

B … Presentation
Fun storytelling methods, and the story does not interfere with the game’s main attraction: platform gaming.

B + … Graphics
Very bright and vivid.

B … Audio
Good sound effects and soundtrack.

B … Gameplay
A somewhat fresh take on the typical platformer; could use a little more depth and variety.

D + … Value
A very short adventure that offers little replay value.


Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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