Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Drill Dozer

When the company Game Freak is mentioned, the Pokemon series is usually the first thing that springs to mind. This isn't surprising; Pokemon is the second biggest selling video game franchise sans Mario and is also the biggest selling franchise in general after Star Wars. Usually with companies with such a long running franchise you'd expect them to try something new to continue this streak of fortune. This isn't really true of Game Freak. In fact, the company have only made three games outside of the Pokemon series (one of then being an adaptation of a manga series). The first game they ever made was Pulseman, a platformer for the Sega Genesis that developed a cult reputation after its rediscovery when Pokemon kicked off. Their other, and in my opinion their best, is Drill Dozer, the crown jewel of the Game Boy Advance.

On starting the game the first thing that will grab your attention is the game's gorgeous animation. The attention to detail as each pixel feels lovingly rendered is in itself a huge compliment and ranks up there with the best in GBA sprite work along with Mother 3 and Astro Boy: Omega Factor. What's even more surprising is that the company famous for creating a brand that refused to innovate its sprites for almost a decade and has characters that take half a second to move from square A to square B can create such fluid animation. This level of detail is needed to convey the story of Jill, a young digger whose opening heist involves drilling into the side of a museum to retrieve a mysterious red emerald. Once her plans are thwarted by a rival gang of thieves, she goes on an expedition to steal the rest of the remaining emeralds before they can.

The most common complaint about the game is the tutorials. This isn't entirely unmerited as Drill Dozer isn't exactly a long game and while the first stage is a straight up tutorial, they drop hints toward things in later levels that the player has probably figured out at that point in the game. While this is true, Drill Dozer conveys its instructions in humour, a level of tongue in cheek that's not too overt (unlike most games with a similar kind of goofy charm) that comes off as endearing instead of annoying.

As you could guess from the title, you pilot the Drill Dozer and traverse the areas as required. In most games similar to this one  you get the feeling that there's so much more that could be done with that games central gimmick (this was the entire philosophy of Portal). Drill Dozer does the exact opposite of this and takes every possible idea you could have with such a machine and turns it into a reality. Have you ever wanted to try drilling into an undrilliable wall and climb up it using the ricochets of your machine? Well you can. Have you ever wanted to jump into the air and use the drill as the worlds deadliest pogo stick? Well you can. Have you ever wanted a sequel to this amazing game? Well, so do I.

There's so much more that Drill Dozer has to offer. Never mind that the drill is one of the most aesthetically pleasing weapons in video games. Never mind that this feeling is further authenticated by the games rumble pack as a genius anti-piracy measure to create an amazing sensory experience and I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the games great level design that even involves turning the drill as a propulsion system for your own one-woman boat and how at the end of the game you can strap on a pair of propellers to gain the power of flight (Don't get me started on some of the most creative boss fights in a platformer since Yoshi's Island). In six levels Drill Dozer capitalises on nearly a decade of creativity that Game Freak have stripped from their Pokemon series and that a sequel has not been made shows Game Freak's admiration of their stand-alone creation or their huge love of money. I'm willing to say it's more of the latter.

Find Drill Dozer on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2006-02-06
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Game Freak


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