Welcome to Drill Land!

Hurry, hurry, hurry!  Step right up for the latest theme park attraction!  It’s a theme park based around Mr. Driller, and it’s all underground!  Sounds safe enough, right?  Anyway, Mr. Driller Drill Land was an awesome GameCube title, but it only stayed in Japan.  But now you can download it on Nintendo Switch in the US!  Finally!  Each attraction represents a game mode in this theme park, and I’m going to take you on a tour of all of them!  So let’s begin!

But first, if you’re not familiar with the gameplay of Mr. Driller, here’s a quick run-though.  You must drill through a well full of colored blocks.  For this reason, it looks like a Tetris style puzzle game at first glance.  But it’s really more action oriented.  Anyway, as you drill, blocks will fall.  Blocks of the same color will stick together, but if four or more match up, they’ll disappear and blocks stacked up on top will fall.  You must keep a watch to make sure no blocks fall on you!  You must also hurry because you have a limited oxygen supply.  You can pick up more oxygen capsules as you drill, but you can’t dilly dally too long.  And that’s pretty much the basic gameplay.  It’s really fun.

I have a bit of history with this game, too.  Late in 1999, right about the time I graduated college, I read an article on Namco’s website about a new arcade game that combined aspects of Tetris with Dig Dug.  It was the first Mr. Driller game, and I thought it sounded cool. A while later, I went to an arcade with friends.  They had a special where you could play for two hours for a set price from 12 to 2 am.  Man I can’t imagine staying out that late now!  Anyway, when we got there, my friend pointed to an arcade machine and said, “Ha, who would want to play a game called ‘Mr. Driller?’”  Well I would!  So I spent the whole two hours at the arcade just playing that one game.  I did make sure nobody was waiting in line behind me every so often, but nobody was!  Later in the year 2000, Namco released a home version of Mr. Driller, which I was excited for.  For the first time, I was able to hear the music in the game, since it was hard to hear it in an arcade.  For a game that was all cutesy pastel colors, the music was totally hardcore and even though it didn’t match the visuals, I loved it.  I later learned the music was composed by Masaru “Go” Shiina, and that’s how Mr. Driller became one of my favorite Namco games and how Go Shiina became my favorite video game music composer.  He also did the music for Tales of Legendia and tunes in Ace Combat and Tekken games.  I wish I could meet him someday.  In the credits of Drill Land, he goes by “C-na Go.”  What is it with musicians and their names?

So if the game does sound like Dig Dug to you, there’s a reason for that.  At one point, the game was going to be called Dig Dug 3.  If you ask me, I think they should’ve named it Dig Dug Puzzle Drill.  I also heard that at one time, Mr. Driller featured a teddy bear character!  But they went with the pastel pink and blue Susumu Hori character instead.  But a few games later, they went and tied it in with Dig Dug anyway!  The main character of the Mr. Driller games, Susumu Hori, his father is Taizo Hori, the main character in Dig Dug!  Susumu Hori and Taizo Hori are Japanese plays on words that roughly mean “I want to dig,” and “I want to dig further.”  From there the Driller family tree gets complicated and even has a bit of drama as well.  Susumu’s mother is Masuyo “Kissy” Tobi, the main character from Baraduke, but she and Taizo have since separated.  Why is she called “Kissy?”  Well it’s rumored that at a party, she got drunk and kissed everyone.  Before separating, Kissy and Dig Dug had three kids.  Ataru is the oldest and is a bit estranged from the family because he had a disagreement with his father.  Ataru is a bit darker and ‘emo’ and has a pet space rabbit.  Susumu is the middle child.  He has a younger brother who is claustrophobic, so he flies a helicopter to help Susumu out of the holes he digs.   And that’s the Driller family!  Pretty crazy huh?  You know what’s even weirder is that games like Mr. Driller, Dig Dug, and Baraduke are on the same fictional timeline as Namco titles like Ace Combat, Galaxian, StarBlade, and more!  Any game where there is a USGF group, that’s in the timeline!  You can watch a video about it if you do a search.  It’s wild!  Anyway, now that you know a little bit about Mr. Driller, let’s take a look at the attractions in Drill Land!

World Driller Tour

This is the main general mode that’s like the one in most other Driller games.  You can pick from several characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.  Characters like Susumu and rival Anna are most balanced, while Susumu’s dog can climb two blocks high.  The robot can take a hit and still drill, and Ataru’s pet space rabbit can climb two blocks and drill three blocks at once with his laser eyes!  For this attraction, the World Driller Tour has a bit of a “It’s a Small World” theme.  In every stage, they have a couple of people from different countries dancing on the side of the screen.  And the song they play in the background kind of sounds like a Japanese version of the “It’s a Small World” theme song.  Supposedly, the lyrics in this song are all about how great Susumu Hori is.  If you want to listen to this song, just do a search on YouTube for “Mr. Driller Boku” and it should pop right up.

Star Driller

This mode is a lot like the main one, but it has a space theme and they added random power-ups.  You can only play as Susumu Hori here.  Susumu actually has a bit of history in outer space.  For one thing, his mother was the main character in Baraduke, a space shooter game.  So it’s in his blood!  Also, Susumu was a selectable character in the spinoff game Star Trigon.  That was a simple game where you rotated around planets, and pushed a button to jet off to another planet so you can make triangles in space to save little alien critters.  It was a really fun game and was even on mobile devices for a while.  I would love it if Namco would re-release that on consoles!  Anyway, the rest of the cast of Star Trigon makes an appearance on the Star Driller title screen.  Some of the power ups you get here will make you faster or give you more oxygen.  But watch out for power-downs like a black hole that can suck up blocks, and you, too, if you get caught in it.  Then you have to start the stage from the top again!  Luckily most of the power-ups are still helpful.  One power-up even has Susumu’s mommy fly by and give him a couple of power-ups!  What a good mom!  Just goes to show you that even if parents are separated, they can still love their kids.

Drindy Adventure

This mode has an “Indiana Jones” style theme, with great parodies in the text descriptions.  You can only play as Taizo Hori, aka Dig Dug here.  He even wears a fedora hat and everything.  In this mode, the blocks won’t disappear if they match up, and you never run out of oxygen.  So you don’t have to worry about that.  But you do have to worry about two other things.  First, you must complete the game while collecting a certain number of gold statues.  But the bigger thing you have to worry about are traps!  These include basic things like spikes and flame jets.  But the trap that can really wreck you up are the rolling boulders!  If these rocks have room to roll left or right, they will, and they take a while to break, so they can squish you!  Also, if they roll far enough, they can break blocks around them.  So even if you climb up one block higher, you’re still not safe!  So the trick is to try and figure out how to get the statues and avoid the rolling boulders.  I really like this mode and it’s one of my favorites.  One of the songs they play in the background in this mode is cool, too.  If you want to listen to it, just do a YouTube search for “Mr. Driller epunam.”  One thing I learned by playing Drill Land on the Switch is that Taizo Hori really likes camels for some reason.  Seems kind of a strange characteristic, but I guess camels are kind of cool.

Horror Night House

Obviously, this mode has a spooky theme.  You can only play as Ataru here.  Makes sense, since he’s a slightly darker and more serious character than the others.  Anyway, like Drindy Adventure, you don’t run out of oxygen and blocks don’t disappear when matched.  However, every so often, ghosts will possess certain blocks.  If you drill through possessed blocks, or wait too long, the ghosts will turn into bats and attack you and you’ll lose hit points.  If you lose all your hit points, the game is over.  To combat the ghosts, you must collect vials of holy water that you can press a separate button to inject into the blocks.  Then when you drill those blocks, the ghosts will disappear and leave behind red crystals.  You must collect a certain number of red crystals to complete the stage.  When you beat the stage, the story mode shows that even though Ataru tries to stay calm and collected, he’s actually terrified of bats.  Another thing Ataru has to watch out for in the story mode of this game is one of the bad guy henchmen characters is a crazy girl who is madly in love with Ataru!  Such drama in this cutesy game!

The Hole of Druaga

The last main mode in the game makes a bit of a reference to one of Namco’s classic franchises: The Tower of Druaga.  Druaga in the arcade never left Japan, but it’s been on several arcade collections over here since then. It’s a dungeon maze game with very obtuse secrets.  I don’t like the game much, but I do like the lore behind it, as there have been several spinoff games and sequels, cameos in other games (like this one), and even an anime at one point.  Anyway, The Hole of Druaga is a lot like the “Dristone” modes found in some other home Mr. Driller titles.  This “Dristone” mode was famously taken out of the US release of Mr. Driller Drill Spirits on the DS, which upset the Mr. Driller community over here, all three of us.  Here, blocks can fall and squish you, but you don’t run out of oxygen. Instead, drilling a block takes away one hit point, and getting squished takes off a bunch.  Lose all hit points and it’s Game Over.  You can collect crystals you can use to help minimize how much you have to drill.  Some crystals change block color, some take them out entirely, or refill your hit points, among other things.  In The Hole of Druaga, you can not only drill down to new areas, but side to side as well.  You must first collect a key guarded by Quox, a dragon from the Druaga games.  But here it’s the cutest Quox you’ve ever seen.  I hate defeating it.  You can defeat enemies with your drill.  Once you get the key, you can use a warp Dristone crystal to take you back up to a different area where you can unlock a door and fight the boss.  You know that lady I mentioned who was madly in love with Ataru earlier?  Well she’s dressed up as Druaga and swinging from a rope, and you must use Dristone crystals to make her take damage.  Once she’s defeated you win the mode.  In this mode, you play as Anna, Susumu’s female driller rival and also girlfriend maybe.  Anna must rescue Susumu, who is forced to wear a dress and he’s not happy about that.  There are lots of other Druaga references in this mode, but I won’t go into them here.  I’m already in “Namco fanboy mode” enough as it is!

Midnight Parade

This isn’t much of a mode, just a parade you can view with floats based on the different game modes.  It reminds me of the Disney Midnight Electric Parade, which must’ve been a big hit in Japan since other games reference it, too, like the ending to Super Mario RPG.  You can slow down and speed up the parade, and blow a whistle to the beat, but that’s it.  So why is this in the game?  Well on the GameCube, you could transfer Pacteria you collected from a GBA Mr. Driller game, and view them in the parade.  Yeah you remember when GBA and GameCube connectivity was a thing?  Anyway, the GBA game you connected was Mr. Driller Ace, and you could collect these little blob critters called Pacteria.  Some even made reference to other Namco games, like you could get a Klonoa Pacteria or one that looked like the spinny metal things from Xevious.  But since you can’t transfer those Pacteria to the Switch, you won’t see them here!

Driller Town

It kind of reminds me of Main Street USA from Disney World, and here’s where you buy stuff.  When you play the game, you earn points you can spend on various things.  One shop sells trading cards you can buy that has info on all the characters.  Another shop sells virtual souvenirs you can view in 3-D.  And another shop sells items that can help you in the game modes if they get too tough (like extra lives and such).  You can also listen to the music, watch story mode movies, and the credits.

Final Attraction

In the story mode, there’s a bad guy who wants to destroy the theme park and the driller crew and use a big drill machine to destroy the world.  So as Susumu, you must drill down really, really fast so the big machine doesn’t get too far away.  And once you reach the drill, you must press the button a certain spot to stop it.  Once you ‘defeat’ the boss, you can unlock harder versions of the other modes and start the process over again.  I think there are three difficulty levels and the fourth one is endless, but I’m not sure.  I’m not good enough to get that far!  The Switch version also has a casual mode but I couldn’t tell any difference from it and the regular mode.  There are also multiplayer modes for up to four, and that’s pretty much the game!

So would you like to visit Drill Land?  You know I would!  If anything just to buy all the souvenirs in the shops!  And who wouldn’t want to meet Susumu Hori and Dig Dug?  But I’m really glad this finally came out in the US.  I’ve been wanting it to come out over here ever since it was on the GameCube almost 20 years ago!  This may sound cheesy, but another reason why I’m glad it came out over here is it gave me a little bit of hope during all this Corona virus quarantine stuff.  This game was first announced for a US release right as we were all going into quarantine, so it gave me something to look forward to.  A light at the end of the tunnel in a way.  But anyway, that’s all I have to say about Mr. Driller Drill Land!  Let me know your thoughts on it in the comments section!  Later!  –Cary

One Response to “Welcome to Drill Land!”

  1. I have a recommendation for you! to make your theme park decrease cost and increase revenue
    ask me how.

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