Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits
Mr. Driller is out to make a name for himself on the dual screens, but does he get buried under the pressure?
For those of us familiar with the Mr. Driller series, Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits for the Nintendo DS is just as good as its console counterparts. As with the other games, the goal of Drill Spirits is to drill underground and reach a certain distance without being crushed by falling debris. You start out as Susumu Hori (the main star of Mr. Driller), and playing as the adorable youngster you must use his drill to pop multi-colored blocks.
The problem is, as you drill, the decisions you make greatly effect what's happening above you. If you destroy a single block it may cause a chain reaction where TONS of other blocks begin to fall. When four or more colored blocks join together they pop, so most of the time you'll avoid being crushed simply because you caught a break since things disappeared.
However, getting squashed isn't the only thing you'll need to worry about. Each character has a dwindling air supply, so you'll need to snag air capsules as you go to prevent him/her/or it from asphyxiating. They're easy to reach while drilling to the shorter depths, but as you progress, getting to them will be a pain! You'll find they're surrounded by X-Blocks, objects that take five strikes to destroy and bump off 20% of your air each time you break one. More often than not the gameplay's one huge frantic race to the finish line, watching your air tank but also making sure that you haven't done something that'll kill your precious driller.
Drill Spirits does a pretty good job making use of the dual screens. The bottom screen is the main playfield, and it's possible to control your driller using the stylus. It has a bit of a learning curve (and is by no means as precise as using the d-pad and face buttons), but with practice I was able to do quite well and actually prefer using it to the game's other control schemes. As for the top screen, it shows what's happening to the blocks as you descend, so you can often avoid trouble by occasionally glancing at it to see what's falling your way.
The game's primary modes are 1P Driller and Driller Race. In 1P Driller, you have the option of playing three game types: Mission Driller, Pressure Driller, and Time Attack Driller. Mission Driller takes you on an adventure around the world, challenging you to drill to different depths (500, 800, and 1,000, among others). If you're successful, you'll unlock different characters that can be used in all modes and there are quite a few of them, so aside from the fact that the gameplay's highly addictive to begin with, there's added incentive to doing something as insane as drilling to a depth of 2000 feet.
Pressure Driller is a cool game type that requires you to destroy the evil Destroyer Drill, a gigantic monster-like creature. As you drill on the bottom DS screen you can see the Destroyer Drill on the top one, and the object is to get in range and knock him out with fire balls. As for Time Attack, it's you're standard "race against the clock" mode.
Making decent use of the DS's wireless functionality, up to five players can compete in Driller Race, which involves reaching the goal before your opponents do. It's made a bit more dramatic because of power-ups you can collect, but it's nothing spectacular. Also, it requires that each player has a copy of Drill Spirits, which is disappointing considering that it's by no means a graphically intense or immensely fun multiplayer game.
Drill Spirits is by no means an amazing-looking game, but it's definitely easy on the eyes. The series' colorful cartoon world translates well to Nintendo DS, as the characters are well detailed and the game itself, which is for the most part two screens of multi-colored blocks, looks fantastic. There are also images that take up both screens (the title screen is a great example of this), and those look good as well.
Aurally, the game's very solid. The characters chatter quite a bit while drilling as well as communicating with one another during cut scenes and the voices are well done. Other sounds, such as blocks popping and the "squish" that occurs whenever you're crushed by falling objects is very good. The music is classic Mr. Driller, featuring familiar and memorable tunes that will be stuck in your head long after you've quit playing for the day.
Drill Spirits is a highly entertaining puzzle game that's worth picking up. It's not loaded with features, and the gameplay isn't as challenging as something like Tetris, but it's still very addictive. The stylus control needed more work, but that's no reason to not buy the game. While it's currently the only puzzle game available for the DS, and rest assured that it's a good one.
What's Hot: As good as any of the previous Mr. Driller games.
What's Not: Not very challenging once you get into it, and lacking features.