It’s now been ten years since Mr. Driller made it’s debut in the arcades. Reportedly, the game started out as an unofficial project by a few developers who were looking to create a sequel to one of Namco’s earliest hits, Dig Dug. Impressed by what they had come up with, Namco management would eventually go on to greenlight it as an official product and the rest is history.
Although a new game in it’s own right, Mr. Driller still retained some links to the ’80s classic. Notably through the main character, Susumu Hori, the son of Taizou Hori who is the star of Dig Dug and also playable in Mr. Driller W. Besides Susumu and his old man, there are five other playable characters, all with varying attributes. Regardless of who is selected, the core gameplay remains the same – just drill, drill, drill through the coloured blocks towards the goal line. Preferably as fast as possible since breathable air is in short supply.
Thankfully this can be replenished by collecting capsules and it’s this element that really makes the game. Typically, the air capsules are placed far enough apart to ensure the player can’t really take things slow and steady. Instead adopting a more risky drilling style of moving quickly, without putting too much thought into matching up colours, is usually the way to go. This approach ensures a steady supply of air, but at the expense of potential cave-ins from above as unsupported blocks begin to fall. Being successful is very much a balancing act between these two styles of play.
Like all the best block puzzle games, its fun to play and addictive. There’s an immediacy to the gameplay and its simple enough that practically anyone can play it. However, at the same time there’s a fair amount of depth to reward skilled players and potential for high-level play.
Anyone already familiar with the series will feel right at home with this latest incarnation. In fact, it’ll probably feel a bit too familiar as this is very much a cookie-cutter release with recycled assets that doesn’t offer anything new. For all it’s faults, at least the XBLA version offered online multiplayer, leaderboards and alternative single-player modes, but Mr. Driller W is cut right back to the bone and features none of this. Only the bog-standard single-player mode is present, initially on three themed levels (Japan, China, Russia), but more locations of increasing difficulty and depth can be unlocked.
Each level can be played on Easy, Normal or Hard and doing so affects the width of the playfield. This is most notable on the Hard setting, since the action is zoomed right out and increases the play area to Bomberman-like dimensions. Besides the selectable difficulty and choice of controller, that’s about all there is to Mr. Driller W. Local multiplayer is not supported whatsoever and this, to say the least, is a disappointment; pretty-much summing up just how lazy Namco have been.
Mr. Driller W is a fine enough game, but compared to previous games in the series, feels woefully-inadequate and simply lacking in content.