Friday, April 4, 2008

Mr. Driller Screwed Again.... A Mr. Driller Online Review

Namco's Mr. Driller series has found success at Japan, but none of that was found in the United States. It is basically a spin-off of the old-school classic Dig Dug starring Mr. Driller and he simply drills to the ground. Usually, importers had to import the best games the series provided that were never officially released in the U.S. such as Drill Land for the GameCube. Mr. Driller Online is the latest offering for the series now for Xbox Live Arcade, but the "online" as mentioned in the title is pretty much broken and unplayable. The single-player and the music are its only saving grace for being a total complete abomination. It is certainly one of the most disappointing releases on XBLA for 800 Microsoft Points (ten dollars) and it is a shame since Namco Bandai had the opportunity to bring Mr. Driller to more casual audience and those who never played it till now like me, but the effort seems rushed and unfinished at its released state.

The gameplay for Mr. Driller Online is simple: Drill blocks to the ground without running of oxygen or being squished by a block. All you need are the left stick (or d-pad) and the A button even though the Y and B buttons are used for other purposes specifically for multiplayer. There are 2 types of five stages for the single player, split to Standard and Quest. Standard Driller is your classic Driller game, but Quest adds some stipulations to the normal action such as completing 100 meters within the time limit, using limited air capsules, and not dying. Quite simply, the two single-player modes don't differentiate too much from each other despite different background settings and music. The goal for Mr. Driller, for those who never played it yet, is to reach a certain number of meters by drilling. The addiction of these games are the sense of challenge, skill, speed, and luck because this game is not a walk in the park pending on your play style. You're always on the clock of getting as far down as possible with limited air and falling blocks, which adds the intensity of survival into play. It basically follows the famous quote, "Easy to learn, but hard to master."

Other than the single player modes, there is the multiplayer and this is when everything falls apart for Mr. Driller Online. First of all, there is no local multiplayer and it was falsely advertised on the game description when buying this game. Secondly and the game's ultimate flaw is that the online play is flat out broken and unplayable unless you are hosting a game. Mostly all online matches go by a host playing the game normally while other players are struggling to even drill the first block. This is not Xbox Live's problem, but Namco's problem as a whole as if they didn't even stress test the network code for this game (this is in fact Namco Bandai's first XBLA game with online play compared to their previous efforts on the service like Pac-Man Championship Edition). Usually at this point when you cannot even drill the first block in an online match, you might as well quit the match and pray for a patch to fix this issue. The match options are solo and tag team battles either ranked or not and there are achievements towards winning streaks, but with the busted network code, its pretty much pointless to try going for them.

The overall presentation for Mr. Driller Online is pretty much bare bones, but this is expected for a Namco Bandai game on Xbox Live Arcade. The menus are simple looking with cool art and the graphics themselves seem unchanged from previous games. Let's just say that the game does not look HD enough, but instead feels like a lazy port. The music, on the other hand, is actually the best part of this game as some songs are from Drill Land, which had the best soundtrack for the series. The sound effects are also unchanged from the series, but also a little annoying since you are drilling blocks.

Mr. Driller Online could have been another old-school hit to enjoy for Xbox Live Arcade like most of the retro re-releases, but the lazy port job Namco has done along with the busted network code is downright disappointing. Then again, this game was announced nearly a month ago, so there is another possible reason it seems rushed to come out. Did the online issues ever happened on debug units compared to retail units? We may not know, but quite simply when you have the word online on the title and it is broken, then that is a huge problem. Other than the obvious support of achievements, most of them are challenging for those who want easy points, and leaderboards, Mr. Driller Online is simply not worth your time at this state it was released.

Final Score 4 /10 

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