Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Drill Dozer review

On Saturday, while perusing the discount games shelf at a Real Canadian Superstore (Sorta like a Wal-Mart), I stumbled across Drill Dozer and MechAssault: Phantom War, both for $20 CDN. So, I bought them! Here is a review of the former.

Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: February 6, 2006 (North America)
ESRB Rating: E for "Everyone" (Notes: Cartoon Violence)

As I said in Games that deserve a sequel: Part 2, Drill Dozer had the sad misfortune of being released in the late days of the Game Boy Advance, a time when the Nintendo DS was beginning to conquer the market. The game went largely unnoticed, despite being made by Game Freak, the people behind Pokemon. Did Drill Dozer deserve more than this? Here's what I think of Game Freak's last Game Boy Advance adventure.

Undoubtedly the most unique aspect of Drill Dozer is it's incredibly bizarre gameplay. Instead of the usual jumping and running fare present in most platformers, Drill Dozer's gameplay relies heavily on the main characters aptly-named vehicle, the Drill Dozer (Sometimes called the Red Dozer). This odd little machine is outfitted with two drills, one on either side of the vehicle's body. One drill spins clockwise, the other spin counter-clockwise. Utilizing both drills is key to making your way through the many enemies, puzzles and obstacles scattered throughout the game's eleven levels (Plus several secret stages). These puzzles can be as simple as finding a way around an immovable barrier, or as complex as timing a jump just right, so as not to fall to your doom. Those without quick reflexes need not apply for this job!

But what is the story behind these adventures? As is explained in the mini-comic packed-in with the game, the leader of The Red Dozers, Doug, was badly injured when the Skulkers gang infiltrated their headquarters and swiped their precious Red Diamond. This leaves his pink-haired daughter, Jill, in charge of the family business. And what better way to kick off her newfound leadership then stealing back their lost Red Diamond? And so Jill, along with Gearmo and Grutch (Other members of The Red Dozers) head off to take back what's rightfully theirs from the Skulkers.

(Counter-clockwise from top) Jill, Gearmo and Grutch

Game Freak has always been known for their unique art styles, and the graphics in Drill Dozer do not fail to please in this respect. The character designs are well stylized (As seen above), and the environments are some of the best ever on the Game Boy Advance. And the bosses are larger than life, with an astonishing number of parts and always looking great in motion (Here's an example). The amount of detail and the sheer size of the levels in this game is truly amazing, especially considering this is on a last-generation handheld. Game Freak really flexed their creative muscles with Drill Dozer, and it payed off big time.

The audio is perhaps the lowest point of Drill Dozer. It's not that it's poor quality, it's that almost every sound effect is recycled from the Game Boy Advance Pokemon games. The music is always fast-paced and well suited to the situation, but I've heard most of the sound bytes many times before while playing Pokemon Ruby.

If the audio isn't this game's low-point, then the lastability surely is. I've been playing this game for a couple of hours or so every day since Saturday evening, and I finished it this morning. Sure, there's another ending to be unlocked, but that entails finding every single one of the game's 31 hidden treasures. I, so far, have three. There's also the secret levels, but not only do you have to do something to unlock them, you also have to pay out quite of bit of currency to access them. It's not a long game, but it is extremely fun while it lasts. And there's always time to go replay those awesome boss fights!


Gameplay: 9.9/10

Every second of this game is full of puzzles and boss battles, never leaving a dull moment. The game's built-in rumble also adds to the experience greatly.

Story: 8.0/10

Drill Dozer's storyline is fun and light-hearted, always avoiding ever getting too serious. The open ending really hurts, especially considering a sequel is most likely never going to happen.

Graphics: 9.5/10

This is, without a doubt, one of the best looking Game Boy Advance games ever published! The animation is smooth, the colors are vibrant, and above all, I'm just a sucker for anything with character art by Ken Sugimori!

Audio: 7.0/10

While the game sounds great, almost every sound effect is taken directly from Pokemon. Besides that, though, the music is very well done, and the few new sound effects are of good quality.

Lastability: 6.5/10

The game won't last you much longer than 10 to 15 hours. There are a few things there attempting to squeeze a few more hours out of the game, but nothing very rewarding, save for a slightly different ending.

Overall: 8.5/10

Drill Dozer is one of Game Freak's finest pieces of work, and it's a real shame that so few copies were sold. With only a few rough patches holding it back, this game is more than worth the $20 USD MSRP it carries today. If you see it, pick it up! It's pretty hard to go wrong at $20.

Have any of you guys had a chance to play this game? If so, what do you think of this little-known gem?

The Duck Has Spoken.


Bentendo said...

This was a great game, though sadly the price dropped within a month or so and I was able to get it for only $9.99!

Monodi said...

I am in a huge urge to get this game, its delicious pure platform old-schoolness with great elements. I heard Target has some stocks left for 9.99, I hope it still has for a period of time because I'll go insane if I don't have this in my hands!