Apple’s mobile devices are finally getting drilled. It’s been a long time coming, as Namco’s Mr. Driller has spent the last decade gallivanting around, landing on Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo systems. In case you’ve missed the previous iterations, Mr. Driller is a fast-paced action puzzler that puts you in the shoes of the androgynous-looking titular hero, hands you a drill, and tells you to dig or die.
And you will do plenty of both. One wrong move, and Mr. Driller is flattened beneath falling blocks that come in all the colors of the rainbow. The goal of the main gameplay mode is to dig through hundreds of multi-shaped blocks to reach a given depth. But once you get a few meters down, there are plenty of blocks overhead just waiting to become dislodged and pancake you under their weight.
Beware of falling blocks.
If four or more blocks of the same color come into contact, the whole mess of them disappears, making way for higher-up blocks to fall and squish you. Get crushed three times, and back to the beginning you go. The only thing that can freeze falling blocks is if they pass by another block of the same color; they’ll stick to it, halting the cave-in.
That points to our main problem with this game. With such a fast pace, and blocks falling all over the place, it’s difficult for novices to plan their routes to avoid being crushed. Comparing the color of falling blocks to the blocks they’ll pass by on their descent, while trying to plan your path and dig often feels like one variable too many.
To make things more challenging, you have an air meter that’s constantly being depleted. To refill it, you need to navigate to air capsules spread throughout the levels. Many of these capsules are surrounded on all sides by X blocks, which are best demolished by creating a chain of four to make them disappear–no easy task.
There’s a brief tutorial included in the Options menu, but it’s not interactive, and it blazes through the gameplay concepts much too quickly. To learn this game, you’re mostly on your own. That’s no problem for players familiar with the series, but beginners beware.
Mr. Driller has an overall Japanese feel, with its anime-style hero and its perfectly quirky Katamari-like music. Like many puzzle games, the visuals are sharp and colorful, but they don’t push the limits of the hardware. The controls feel great, and there are three game modes to choose from: Arcade, Survival, and Time Attack. High scores can be posted to online leaderboards or to your wall on Facebook.
If you’re a fan of the series, by all means, grab this one up. If you enjoy high-stress puzzle games and don’t mind a large learning curve, help yourself. For everyone else, Mr. Driller probably isn’t your cup of tea.