IroIro Retro Emporium Logo\\

Drill Dozer

Making a game where a lot of what one does revolves around a very specific mechanic that has been dreamt up specifically for that game is a tricky prospect. It can work out great and make for a very enjoyable experience, or it might fail miserably and the whole game is written off as a poorly thought out gimmick. Drill Dozer is a platformer that dared to focus on a very specific set of game mechanics, namely the use of a drill (who would have guessed!). Fortunately, the folks at Game Freak pulled through with a very good platformer on the GBA where the last thing one would do is dismiss the thing as a terrible gimmick.

Players take control of a young girl named Jill, who is a member of band of thieves known as The Red Dozers. Her father, Doug, is the leader of this group, but one day he was tricked by a rival gang and as a result lost the Red Diamond, which was a gift from Jill’s dead mother. Now Jill has to get it back from the Skullker Gang by hopping in her Drill Dozer, fighting hordes of gang member and exploring massive levels in the process.

At its core, the game is a platformer, but in order to fight enemies and get around the various levels, players have to make thorough use of the drill on the end of the Drill Dozer. It steadily grinds down enemy hit points, and can be used to destroy obstacles, sure, but there is a lot more to the thing. As players make their way through the game, they’ll encounter more and more things that they can use the drill on in order to get through the level. There are jelly cubes that she can jump into while spinning her drill, only to reverse its rotation, causing her to jump a considerable distance in the opposite direction. Another example would be devices that move around the level that Jill can attach herself to by spinning her drill. All the while players need to swing her back and forth so she doesn’t bump into obstacles, forcing the device to go in the opposite direction.

Really, there are a bunch of things to do with the Drill Dozer’s drill. As more mechanics are introduced, players will find them combining them as well. Once the game really gets going, there are a lot of interesting things to do with that drill and it can take a decent amount of skill to do them well.

Better still, it eventually becomes possible to buy upgrades for the Drill Dozer, making the thing all that much more powerful. As it gets stronger and other abilities become unlocked over the course of the game, players can begin to revisit previous levels, exploring them further and go to previously unreachable areas.

The stages are really quite big much of the time, leading to a lot of exploration. Each stage Jill visits requires her to find gears tucked away throughout it. With each one that she finds she’s able to spin her drill faster, making it more powerful. She’ll start the stage with only first gear, but when she finds the others she can then crank it up into second and, finally, third gear, allowing her to defeat enemies much faster, break through certain doors, and the like. Once she finds the last gear, it usually means that the level is almost over and a boss fight isn’t all that far off.

Interestingly, Drill Dozer is one of only two games on the GBA to use forced feedback. Sure, this was common on home consoles, but the feature is something that just doesn’t show up in handhelds. It adds as much to the whole experience as one might expect, but it still makes for a fun bit of trivia regarding the game.

Aesthetically, the game is very well put together. There are a lot of bright colors popping off the screen, character and environment designs are very nice, with a carefree cartoony look to them, and there are a lot of silly / cute animations to chuckle at as Jill and the gang do their thing. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is great. There are a lot of catchy tunes in Drill Dozer that one will likely find themselves humming along to here.

There is no lack of platformers on the GBA. For Drill Dozer to stand out from the crowd, it needed to do something different, and it succeeded. The ways players use the drill are quite clever and add a lot to the experience. Add on top of this some nice visuals and a solid platforming foundation, making this is a game well worth adding to one’s GBA library.

- IroIro
June 14, 2019
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Genre: Action Platformer
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 2005

Drill Dozer Image 1

Drill Dozer Image 2

Drill Dozer Image 3

Drill Dozer Image 4