Thursday, March 24, 2005

Mr Driller: Drill Spirits

Normally, there is a single game which will get stuck in a console for a long period, since it overrules any other available. Not the DS, however.

I've got 144 stars on Mario 64DS, but now I can't find which ones I'm missing. This game was stuck in the DS for ages because it was the best one I owned. I doubt it'll make its way back in now, for two reasons.

I was expecting Wario Ware: Touched to be a reason. It's not. I'm not saying it's a bad game; anything but. In fact, it's superb. It's just a bit short, and the woeful decision to group games according to how you play them means that there are very few modes with true replayability. One mode, for example, just has you blowing into the microphone all the time. What's the point?

Polarium, as you may have guessed, is also not a reason. In fact, I've only played it once since my last entry below.

The two reasons are Mr Driller: Drill Spirits and Zoo Keeper. I'll talk about the latter at some point soon, since I'm not sure how to express how good it is. Mr Driller: Drill Spirits is easy to talk about.

Firstly, Mr Driller: DS is better than Mr Driller. It's better than Mr Driller: Drill Land. It's on a par with Mr Driller 2. In fact, if it included "average" stats in the same way as Mr Driller 2, it would be better. That's high praise indeed.

Mr Driller: DS has been criticised by a number of people for not using the full capabilities of the DS. It's very difficult to control with the stylus. But it's really not a stylus game. It doesn't really use the two screens. It does, in that the top screen shows you the blocks above you which you should avoid, but in the heat of the game you really can't look at it.

This misses the point though. Not every DS game needs to use everything the DS has to offer. Some games work best just as a traditional game. And Mr Driller: DS is an excellent example of this. It's compelling, addictive, and pure fun. It induces excitement and tension, and rewards risk-taking and quick thinking. It's a very simple concept made infinitely complex.

The additional modes this includes over standard Mr Driller make it massively superior. The Dristone mode makes it feel like a completely different game - you're not racing against time, but instead trying to drill as few times as possible. Dristone mode is analagous to Polarium's challenge mode, but while the latter introduces a lot of new play concepts (only being allowed to use one stylus movement, free move areas on all four sides, needing to clear the whole screen at once) Dristone only changes the time requirement and adds collectable crystals to expand on the strategy. It's a much more successful conversion, in all.

The time attack levels aren't as good as those in Mr Driller 2, but they're built on the same idea - one ideal route to be followed and a different theme to each one.

And the pressure mode is superb. you must race downwards collecting both air and power capsules; collecting up to three power capsules allows you to fire upwards at the big robot drill (on the top screen) which is chasing you downwards. It's Mr Driller, but with added stress. Or, indeed, pressure.

Add all this to a normal Mr Driller mode (with characters which actually act in different ways) and you have possibly the best game yet available. Get it. Now.


A lot of people like Polarium. It's not really clicked with me yet.

You're presented with a screen of black and white tiles. You must make each horizontal line a single colour, and it disappears. This bit works well. You turn a tile over by drawing over it with the stylus. This bit also works well.

There are two modes. The "main" mode (challenge) has new lines of blocks dropping from the top of the screen, and you must get rid of lines before the pile stacks up too high. To start with, the game gives you set pieces which are easy to get rid of. But aftera little while, it starts dropping random lines which really require you to just make single blocks turn over, getting rid of one line at a time. It just becomes no fun.

The puzzle mode is better. There's no tension here, since there's no time limit. You're presented with a single screen and must work out how to make all lines disappear at once using a single stylus movement. I like this mode; but I've got to the 46th puzzle and I just can't work it out. So it's now just frustrating.

I hope the challenge mode is one which will just click soon. Otherwise I'm a bit disappointed.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Busy, busy, busy

I did mean to warn you that my posting here won't be very regular or reliable. I'm a consultant, you see, which means that my busyness (and business) at work swings up and down like a particularly active yo-yo. When I'm busy, I have very little time to play games, let alone write about them.

But today's my birthday, so I'm not going to do any work. Instead, I've just been given Polarium and Mr Driller: Drill Spirits for my DS. I do already have the latter, but that's the Japanese version which means I'm missing out on the amazingly relevent story and also having difficulty with the Dristone mode. So I'm really pleased to have got the UK version. Especially since it's got one-cart multiplayer.

Also, I've bought a lot of cheapie games recently from the HMV sale. They are all crap. But they were cheap, which is they key thing, since Game is currently running a promotion where you can take in 4 old games and pay 99p for a new game. The games from the HMV sale cost me from £1.99 to £3.99 each. So four games at the most is £16, which equates to a new one for £17. Even can't beat that.

Four of the games I've got are reserved for the release next Friday of Timesplitters: Future Perfect. Timesplitters 2 has a lot of detractors, but I've always found it to be rather fun; especially in multiplayer mode. TS:FP has online play. It may even usurp Halo 2 from its position as my favourite Live game.

I'm slightly worried that my expectations are too high.