Mr. Driller will have you screaming “Drill baby drill!”

Posted: September 4, 2009 in Arcade

Something that has made the iTunes store so accessible has been the lower pricing model for quality games. Of course, with dozens of new releases each week, scouring through them to find entertaining games can be a chore. On the flip side, a week with multiple big releases often times can drown out other games that deserve attention. Take the case of Mr. Driller which that sat on my iPod Touch 2g for two days before I spent some quality time with it. It didn’t take long for me to become addicted to the easy to learn, yet tremendously fun gameplay and made me wish I had reviewed this much sooner.

Aptly described in its name, Mr. Driller is a driller who must drill deep down to clear blocks until he reaches his target depth. Of course, there are hazards that come with drilling such as the slowly depleting air supply and dare we forget instability and falling blocks from all the drilling. Similar to Match-3 games, blocks come in a number of different colors that disappear when same colored blocks combine, potentially creating chain reactions and scoring bonus points.

Visually, the graphics and artwork are set within an appealing interface with vibrant colors and equally interesting backgrounds that are visible when blocks are cleared. On the other hand, since the game is played in a landscape view, a good portion of the real estate is used for controls and HUD which limits the size of the actual game screen. All in all, it’s a slick design that is well presented.

One of things that I enjoy with these types of games is how simple they seem in concept, but the actual play is quite random combining skill with a bit luck which adds to the replay value. With four difficulty levels ranging from easy to expert, Mr. Driller offers three game modes—Arcade, Survival and Time Trial. No matter your tastes, all three modes are enjoyable. Arcade provides you with the goal of drilling to either 500m or 1000m, while Survival challenges you to dig as deep as you can before running out of lives or air. Both offer an oxygen gauge that is partially replenished by collecting air power ups and depleted when drilling into obstacles. With a slightly different gameplay, Time Trial offers 10 levels that pit Mr. Driller in a race against the clock with time added for clock power ups that are picked up along the way.

Mr. Driller includes three control options: d-pad, swipe and accelerometer. Of the three, d-pad works the best for me because of its responsiveness and accuracy, while the swipe and accelerometer options can be difficult to use in a fast-paced game. In addition, you can change the number of extra lives earned up to 5 as well as choose from a dozen different music tracks that can range from Hello Kitty perky all the way to varying degrees of edgy.

The gameplay requires a certain degree of quick thinking which is really where the fun lies because of falling blocks and a constantly depleting oxygen gauge. Loose blocks shake for a brief few seconds to give you a warning, but it’s also ample time in some cases to pick up life-saving oxygen and time-prolonging clocks. As I mentioned drilling into obstacles depletes oxygen, but you’ll also need to wary of getting trapping between obstacles in the midst of showering blocks. Climbing to adjacent blocks is simple, and as I said previously, the d-pad seems to be the best control option. Trying to swipe or tilt accurately with falling blocks can be done, but it takes a little more patience and practice to master. In addition, because the game relies on skill and luck, the replay value is significant even if you adopt a similar strategy each time.

Overall, Mr. Driller delivers a lot of bang for your buck with addictive gameplay in a beautifully designed game. The game has plenty of replay value, and while it’s designed to be a pick-up-and-play, I wouldn’t be surprised if many find themselves spending more time on this than expected.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (entertaining gameplay that will find many wasting more minutes than they expected; fun looking interface with bright colors and several gameplay modes should appeal to puzzlers, arcade gamers, and anyone looking for a solid game)

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