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Game Boy  header logo

Drill Dozer

For: GameBoy

The 2D platformer might seem like a dead genre, but this one wakes it up

Product: Drill Dozer | Developer: Game Freak | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: GameBoy | Genre: Action, Platform | Players: 1 | Version: US
Drill Dozer GameBoy, thumbnail 1
A drill can be a dangerous thing, especially when clutched by inexperienced hands. But it's not just the sharp, rotating metal bit that causes problems. Many a home's been blighted by indirect results, such as wonky shelves or a mirror that suddenly falls off the wall.

To avoid such embarrassment, you need thorough training, and that's exactly what happens in Drill Dozer. Despite being on the lowly GameBoy Advance, the story of a Jill and her mechanical walking robotic pet-come-attack-vehicle – the eponymous Drill Dozer – is a textbook example of how to teach players to deal with increasingly complex situations. By the end of the game, you'll be pulling off the sort of stunts you'd have thought impossible at the start.

More than just a coherent learning environment though, Drill Dozer's also one of the most enjoyable 2D action-based platformers you're ever likely to come across.

The reason is the sheer pleasure of wielding Jill's Drill Dozer. At its simplest, the drill leaps into action as you hold down one of the GBA's (or DS') shoulder buttons; left rotates it anti-clockwise, right clockwise. In the early stages of the game, the distinction doesn't matter but as you dig deeper into the world of the rotten Skullker gang (which has stolen your precious red diamond), tricks and moves are set up that require you to choose the right rotation, as well as reversing directions, in an almost rhythmic manner, mid-drill.

Also building up your move repertoire are two additional drilling gears. Starting off a level with just one gear (there are six areas in total, each consisting of a couple of levels), some parts are protected by tough blocks or steel barriers you can't break without the extra gears. Finding them is a matter of working your way logically through the level.

Once equipped, you deploy the power of the gears by holding down the shoulder button until you get a neat howling sound effect and the onscreen prompt to 'shift up', requiring you to quickly release and re-apply the button for extra drilling.

Adding to the sheer joy of the process is the game cart's in-built rumble pack, which provides appropriately shaky feedback. Because even more than you might expect, this game is completely based around drilling.

There's little exploration involved. Instead you drill to take out the numerous enemies that populate the environment. You drill to break into new areas. You drill to operate machinery. You even have to drill into rubber blocks, which you then reverse-drill (or kick-back) out of to jump to higher areas. And then there are the end-of-level bosses, which require plenty of well-timed, heavy-duty drilling to defeat.

It's the flexible way in which Drill Dozer uses this basic mechanism, combined with great graphics and audio, brilliant design and almost perfect pacing that make the game a delight to play.

For example, each area comes with its own selection of moves and enemies, as well as subtle variations on the theme such as the underwater levels of the ruins, where the drill becomes a propeller. Another great addition halfway through the game is the introduction of timed blocks, which reappear after you've drilled them, bringing a completely new set of challenges into play.

Even once you've finished the game, there's plenty more to do, as a more powerful drill bit becomes available, enabling you to play through the entire game again, destroying all the armoured blocks whose existence mystified you first time around.

In short, Drill Dozer is perhaps the last, great, original Game Boy Advance game and, if so, it's one that gives Nintendo's handheld a worthy send-off.

It's almost enough to make you want to pick up a drill and hang a picture on your living room wall, but remember to take care. In real-life, there are no save points...

(We played the American release of Drill Dozer: we've been waiting for an official UK release date for the game for ages, but none has been forthcoming. Now we're afraid it might not come out here at all. If there was ever a game to pick up from an importer, this might be it).
Drill Dozer
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 25 July 2006
Thanks to brilliant design, fantastic gameplay and its in-built rumble device, Drill Dozer is one of the best 2D platformers you'll ever play
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