Public Service Announcement: Do NOT Purchase Mr. Driller Online for the XBLA
I come bearing a warning for anyone with an Xbox Live account. Do not, I repeat, do NOT under any circumstances purchase the newest XBLA title, Mr. Driller Online. Normally I might call this sort of article my “impressions” of a game. But due to the severe awfulness of Mr. Driller Online, I’m calling this a “Public Service Announcement.” I honestly feel that this sort of warning goes right up there with “Only you can prevent forest fires” and “This is your brain on drugs.” Some of you may think that piece of advice is fairly obvious, but I wish someone had warned me before I plopped down 800 Microsoft points for possibly the worst XBLA title I have ever experienced. Read on as I explain why Mr. Driller Online should only be sold under the counter in back alleys and dingy fast food places.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed the past Mr. Driller games. Many would disagree, but the GBA installment probably ate away more of my time than any puzzler with the words “Tetris” in the title (which is a feat, believe me). So when I heard a new Mr. Driller was on the way, I couldn’t have been happier. The title, “Mr. Driller Online,” made me think it would be along the lines of Bomberman Live. In fact, I wrote an editorial awhile back urging game developers to just give up on making new games and re-sell us some old classics with a few bonus features. Maybe I should’ve been more specific. For starters, adding new things is perfectly okay; taking things away and changing up the gameplay entirely is not. Let me explain: in all Mr. Driller games, you’re trying to work your way to the bottom of a level before your air runs out. In previous installments, you would lose an air unit with each drill you made. This left room for a bit of strategic thinking, as you’d have to ponder your moves carefully to keep gathering power ups and air capsules; which is how it earned the “puzzle game” label. In this new game though, your air gauge just constantly depletes at a steady rate unless you refill it with air capsule; the whole game is now a damn time attack mode. It’s not a unique puzzle game now; it’s just a cheap arcade knock off.
And that’s just the most prominent change to the gameplay. Besides that, they’ve also decided to eliminate all the incredible and useful power ups in favor of four; two of which are practically useless. Then there are only five stages with two modes. “Standard Mode” has you just working your way to bottom without dying, which is mostly a mad button-mashing endeavour thanks to the new air guage. “Quest Mode” has you trying to fulfill objectives within a time limit. Oh yeah, but the game refuses to tell you what all those objectives are or even how much time you have left. So now you’ve got two clocks working against you, but one of them’s a secret. I’m sure you can imagine just how much fun that is.
But no, the developers couldn’t stop with ruining the tried-and-true gameplay completely. They wanted to make sure you really knew it was a bad game by giving you broken new features. Since the game has “online” right there in the title, you’d think the focus would be on playing against people over the internet. So why does this have some of the buggiest online gameplay I’ve ever seen in any video game? Hopping into an online match with anyone is signing up for frustration. No matter what, you’ll be stuck at the beginning of the map since your magic drill suddenly becomes about as useful as a Twizzler in breaking blocks. Hosting a match yourself doesn’t improve matters either. Then you get to rush your way through a level (with a ridiculously choppy framerate, I might add) while your opponent is the one stuck at the top. I’ve tried playing five matches online at different points throughout the day, and they all ended when someone quit.
Overall, Mr. Driller Online is more like a faint memory of a Mr. Driller title. It’s like vegan cooking: sure, that may look like a plate of delicious chicken nuggets, until you bite into it and recognize the cardboard flavor of tofu. Besides being left with a bad taste in your mouth, you feel betrayed for having been tricked by a mockery of one of your favorite things. It doesn’t just ruin those “chicken” nuggets; it even taints all chicken nuggets past and future. Such is my experience with Mr. Driller Online. Don’t buy it, people. Just don’t.
This Public Service Announcement is brought to you in part by the Gaming Today Institute for Avoiding Terrible Terrible Games. If you or someone you know is thinking of purchasing Mr. Driller Online, please seek professional help. Together, we can make a difference.