Given enough time everyone who pursues gaming as a hobby builds up a sort of shame list, a collection of games that are of interest but have gone unplayed for various reasons. We call this list a backlog, and the following details the elimination of another title from mine:
When I heard that Game Freak made rare plans to release a non-Pokémon title – HarmoKnight – later this year, it reminded one of their few other titles not dealing in mystical cockfighting that I’d meant to give a try for a while. Seeing as how HarmoKnight will likely convince me to surrender some legal tender for its privilege the time seemed right to finally dig into Drill Dozer, the developer’s portable platforming piece from 2005.
Platforming has been my go-to genre pretty much from the point I started gaming in the first place, and though I’ve never set a speed run record or place myself anywhere near the upper echelons of players I consider myself to be fairly skilled at the art of not falling into bottomless pits. Drill Dozer had me convinced with its whimsical exterior and early hand-holding that reaching the end would be a simple, possibly forgettable endeavor. I was soon proved wrong. Very wrong.
Just like its more popular sibling, this Game Boy Advance game’s true colors only show in its final hours. Early levels felt like glorified training because, in retrospect, that’s precisely what they were meant to be. Even after the training wheels come off the game continues to introduce new elements and force you to learn precisely how to exploit them with an arsenal limited to “jump,” “drill left,” and “drill right.” Alien as many elements and the manner you interface with them might seem at first blush, it won’t be long before you’re rappelling from jelly block to jelly block just in time to catch a drill lift, reverse eject yourself, and pull a 180 to traverse a gear-sensitive drill tunnel.
The lion’s share of the challenging content is delegated to the postgame by way of unlockable shop items, which is unfortunate considering how easily they could’ve been integrated into the game proper or at least made available earlier at the same price. The ever-present equipment screen accessible from the main menu also teases at the notion of customization options for your little drill mecha, but once I discovered that health and linear drill upgrades are the only things you can get it it took a little of the wind out of my sails.
Small complaints aside, though, Drill Dozer was an extremely enjoyable experience. Colorful art, varied bosses, well-implemented mechanics, and a punchy, energetic soundtrack all contributed to both the game’s addictive nature and the notion that I’d waited far too long to give this game a try. Given the ability to skip over the postgame content (and the treasure hunt that accompanies it) this title is ultimately accessible both to a casual crowd and platforming veterans like me who enjoy a good bit of digital self-flagellation every now and then.