Retro Review: Drill Dozer (GBA)

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Today, I will be covering a fairly unique game: Drill Dozer for the Game Boy Advance. This 2-D platformer by the creators of Pokemon, Game Freak, was also the only Game Boy Advance game that featured rumble (it was built into the cartridge).

This game focuses on the character Jill, who pilots a machine called the Drill Dozer. The Drill Dozer has a drill on it (obviously) and much of what is unique about the game is built around how the drill interacts with the game world. You activate the drill by pressing the L button or R button. Most of the time, you will be breaking walls or obstacles, or alternately defeating enemies. In other cases, you will be using the drill to reach new areas. In some cases, you need to rotate the drill in the opposite direction to navigate the game world. This is done most often by sticking the drill into one object, then rotating in the other direction to jump backwards a bit.

DrillDozerDrill
Image of the Drill Dozer breaking a wall. The Dozer is currently in 3rd gear.

In every level, you have to pick up two extra gears as power ups. You can spin the drill for longer when you shift gears, capping out to as long as you like at third gear. Some barriers can only be broken after you find these gears, and other obstacles can only be cleared when using a higher gear. There are other uses for the drill, including using it like a screwdriver, or to deflect certain projectiles. It is impressive how many uses this game has for a simple action.

Another neat thing about this game is that you can buy upgrades. Most of the time, it will be used for expanding your health meter, though you can eventually buy a new drill that can break sturdier blocks. In addition, there are extra maps that give you bonus levels to play (though for this review, this content hasn’t been examined).

As well thought out most of this game is, there are some slight issues. Relying on the L and R buttons can lead to hand cramps if you play for too long. I have found that many levels have a section were you have to fight off a wave of enemies before you can progress. These segments seem to be one of the few things that don’t work quite as smoothly, as I found that you can easily get hit at least once if you aren’t used to how the drill turns on and off.

DrillDozerWaves
This section of the game features Jill fighting a wave of enemies. Notice the awkward way she is attacking.

In particular, there are two stages, one water stage, and another where you use the drill like a propeller to fly, where the game is harder to control than usual. Yes these are only two stages, but the game is also quite short. In fact, there are only 11 stages to play in the main story, so these two levels take up more of the game than I would have liked. On top of that, the final fight is kinda anticlimactic, leaving you wondering if there is an alternate ending (there isn’t).

DrillDozerWater
The dreaded water level in Drill Dozer. It may not be obvious, but it is harder to control the game here.

Now let’s look at some play recommendations:

  • Play one or two levels at a time, to limit hand cramps.
  • Upgrade your health meter often.
  • You may play the optional levels if you want more out of the game after completing the story.
  • Seek the optional treasures, if you feel like it.

Now, let’s look at the Pro’s and Con’s:

Pro’s:

  • The drill is quite versatile as a game play mechanic. I didn’t expect this.
  • The game can be fast paced at times.
  • The rumble works quite well, as I usually turn it off in other games.

Con’s:

  • The Water and Air levels are frustrating in comparison to the rest of the game. The bosses of these levels are also frustrating.
  • There is another frustrating boss about mid-way through the game.
  • The game is too short, unless you try the optional content.
  • Health pickups are a little too scarce.
  • The controls can lead to hand cramps.
  • The finale is too simple and anticlimactic.

So, what is the final verdict?

7.9/10: Short and sweet

Drill Dozer is a quick and unique game, and is a sign that Game Freak can make something other than Pokemon. By today’s standards, it is a little short, so playing for 100% may be the best way to enjoy this game fully.


This review was made possible by The Gamer Collective. You can find them on Facebook at The Gamer Collective. You can also find them on Instagram at The Gamer Collective on Instagram


And that was what I thought of Drill Dozer. Did you play this game? What did you think of it? How did you feel about the rumble feature? Will you collectors seek it out? Tell me in the comments below!

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