Thursday, March 24, 2005

Mr Driller: Drill Spirits

Normally, there is a single game which will get stuck in a console for a long period, since it overrules any other available. Not the DS, however.

I've got 144 stars on Mario 64DS, but now I can't find which ones I'm missing. This game was stuck in the DS for ages because it was the best one I owned. I doubt it'll make its way back in now, for two reasons.

I was expecting Wario Ware: Touched to be a reason. It's not. I'm not saying it's a bad game; anything but. In fact, it's superb. It's just a bit short, and the woeful decision to group games according to how you play them means that there are very few modes with true replayability. One mode, for example, just has you blowing into the microphone all the time. What's the point?

Polarium, as you may have guessed, is also not a reason. In fact, I've only played it once since my last entry below.

The two reasons are Mr Driller: Drill Spirits and Zoo Keeper. I'll talk about the latter at some point soon, since I'm not sure how to express how good it is. Mr Driller: Drill Spirits is easy to talk about.

Firstly, Mr Driller: DS is better than Mr Driller. It's better than Mr Driller: Drill Land. It's on a par with Mr Driller 2. In fact, if it included "average" stats in the same way as Mr Driller 2, it would be better. That's high praise indeed.

Mr Driller: DS has been criticised by a number of people for not using the full capabilities of the DS. It's very difficult to control with the stylus. But it's really not a stylus game. It doesn't really use the two screens. It does, in that the top screen shows you the blocks above you which you should avoid, but in the heat of the game you really can't look at it.

This misses the point though. Not every DS game needs to use everything the DS has to offer. Some games work best just as a traditional game. And Mr Driller: DS is an excellent example of this. It's compelling, addictive, and pure fun. It induces excitement and tension, and rewards risk-taking and quick thinking. It's a very simple concept made infinitely complex.

The additional modes this includes over standard Mr Driller make it massively superior. The Dristone mode makes it feel like a completely different game - you're not racing against time, but instead trying to drill as few times as possible. Dristone mode is analagous to Polarium's challenge mode, but while the latter introduces a lot of new play concepts (only being allowed to use one stylus movement, free move areas on all four sides, needing to clear the whole screen at once) Dristone only changes the time requirement and adds collectable crystals to expand on the strategy. It's a much more successful conversion, in all.

The time attack levels aren't as good as those in Mr Driller 2, but they're built on the same idea - one ideal route to be followed and a different theme to each one.

And the pressure mode is superb. you must race downwards collecting both air and power capsules; collecting up to three power capsules allows you to fire upwards at the big robot drill (on the top screen) which is chasing you downwards. It's Mr Driller, but with added stress. Or, indeed, pressure.

Add all this to a normal Mr Driller mode (with characters which actually act in different ways) and you have possibly the best game yet available. Get it. Now.

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