Mr Driller – DrillLand review (PS5)

Mr. Driller DrillLand (that’s too many L’s for the spellchecker to handle) originally launched on the PC and Switch last year, but has now been ported over to Xbox and PlayStation as well, allowing more players to enjoy this fun arcade puzzler. We tested it out on a PlayStation 5.

It feels like Mr. Driller has been around for quite a while, but for a game that got its start in arcades it’s actually a very young franchise, dating back to 1999 – way later than almost any other arcade franchise most people can mention. Perhaps it’s partly because its mechanics feel related to other (and older) titles, like Boulderdash and Dig Dug – the latter of which actually spawned Mr. Driller.

We did point out that Mr. Driller DrillLand launched on other systems last year, but those versions were actually HD remasters of a game that originally launched for the GameCube almost twenty years ago, but which never made it to the West until last year. It’s not a big break from the look and feel of other Mr. Driller games though, as it features the same cartoon-like visuals, and because that style generally ages well you won’t be grabbing this release because of a giant audiovisual leap forward.

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The real star attraction here is the fun, “easy to understand, hard to master” gameplay, which is all based inside the virtual theme park DrillLand and its six zones/attractions, which double as gameplay modes. World Drill Tour feels like basic campaign mode though, with the other ones building on its formula in various ways while introducing their own unique audiovisual style as well.

It’s always your job to try and drill your way downward, and breaking blocks always eliminates adjacent blocks of the same color – though this can also cause landslides that might crush you. It’s a great take on a familiar formula – one that was brought back to great popularity through games like Spelunky as well. Mr. Driller adds an interesting mechanic through the amount of air you have left as well, which makes it important to pick up additional air while avoiding situations that drain it extra quickly.

The Drindy Adventure zone/mode adds a treasure-seeking element to the mix, and makes things like falling boulders far more frequent as well to make sure that rewards aren’t without risk. This effect and counter-effect can also be seen in Horror Night Adventures, which introduces ghosts but also adds holy water as a countermeasure.

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The mode that’s least like an arcade game is Hole of Druaga, as it adds RPG-like elements and a bit of dungeon crawling where you need to explore in order to find a key and proceed. For a game originally born out of an arcade concept, Hole of Druaga is surprisingly deep, even introducing boss fights.

What’s also nice about DrillLand is that even some of the menu items and collectibles have been turned into an in-game zone. This one’s Drill Town, and you can access and unlock a variety of unlockables here through little stores, but also check out the game’s music and cutscenes outside of the regular gameplay.

In addition to all the single player content outlined above, you can also play a good variety of modes in a local multiplayer setting. While this is mostly for those who enjoy competitive multiplayer and thus favors experienced players, they support up to four players at once so they represent some serious lasting appeal. Mr. Driller DrillLand is an excellent arcade puzzler that didn’t just stand the test of time well, but also features a host of different ways to play and enjoy it.

Score: 8.0/10

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