|Platform(s)||Arcade, PlayStation, Dreamcast, WonderSwan Color, Game Boy Color, Windows, Game Boy Advance, mobile phone, GameCube, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, DSiWare, Wii, iOS, Nintendo Switch|
|First release||Mr. Driller|
|Latest release||Mr. Driller Drill Land (Nintendo Switch and PC ports)|
June 25, 2020
Mr. Driller[a] is a puzzle video game franchise created by Yasuhito Nagaoka and Hideo Yoshizawa for Namco. The eponymous first game was released in 1999 for arcades and several home consoles, such as the PlayStation. Gameplay in the series consists of controlling Susumu Hori, the titular Mr. Driller, or one of his friends and destroying colorful formations of blocks to make it to the bottom of a well. In order to survive, players need to collect air capsules to replenish their depleting oxygen and avoid being crushed by falling blocks.
Nagaoka intended Mr. Driller to be the third mainline entry in Namco's Dig Dug series. The two franchises have since been directly connected to one another through sharing characters and similar gameplay concepts. Project Driller was established as the development team for the series, which produced four sequels from 2000 to 2004. Bandai Namco Entertainment became the owner of the Mr. Driller property after Namco's 2005 merger with Bandai, where it released several more installments for digital distribution services and mobile devices.
The Mr. Driller series was popular in Japan and its characters have become synonymous with the Namco brand. Reception from western publications has varied depending on the game. Most critics agree the series benefits from its simplicity and addictive nature, though several installments have been criticized for their lack of content and recycling of assets from earlier games.
- Susumu Hori - the series's main protagonist and the highest-ranked Driller in the world, and the son of legendary Driller, Taizo Hori (of Dig Dug fame). He is a little crazy, but is still a good-natured, courageous young boy with a strong sense of justice. He is Japanese, has brown hair and eyes, and wears a pink and light blue jumpsuit and helmet. His performance in the game is all-around, with normal walking speed and a normal air-consumption rate. He is usually recommended for intermediate players. Susumu is voiced by Mitsuko Horie.
- Puchi - a genius talking wonder dog and companion to Susumu. He has been Susumu's closest confidant ever since Susumu found him abandoned as a little puppy and nursed him back to health. He is a white dog with brown spots. He was first playable in Mr. Driller G. In the game, Puchi moves slower than Susumu, but his air consumption is slower as well. He also has the ability to jump up two blocks high. In the Scenario Driller mode of Mr. Driller G, he follows Susumu in one of the stages and barks when he is near a hidden Dristone. He is usually recommended for beginning players. Puchi is voiced by Mitsuko Horie.
- Toby Masuyo- Susumu's mother and star of Baraduke, an ex-soldier of the United Galactic Space Force (UGSF) and took part in the battle of Alien Sector in 1985. Masuyo is the mother of Susumu and Ataru. She used to be married to Taizo Hori, but for unknown reasons, they are separated. She is Japanese and has short light brown hair with dark brown eyes. She wears a yellow space bio-suit with orange gloves, blue/green boots and white belts going around her body that connect to a jet pack. She is a support character and assists her son in the Mr. Dig games.
- Taizo Hori - Susumu's father and star of Dig Dug, a legendary Driller and chairman of the Driller Council. He is the hero of the 1982 Dig Dug Incident and is a globetrotting adventurer. He is Japanese, has brown eyes and a goatee, wears a white suit with red chevrons and a blue belt, red boots, blue gloves, and a white-and-blue helmet. He was first playable in Mr. Driller G. In the game his walking speed is slow and his air consumption rate is fast. However, he can make blocks disappear much faster, making his descent speed quicker as well. He is usually recommended for expert players.
- Anna Hottenmeyer - Susumu's friend and fierce rival and the second-highest-ranked Driller in the world. She is German, and has blue eyes, blonde hair, and wears a white jumpsuit with a pink star on the front, pink sleeves, and blue goggles. She was first playable in Mr. Driller 2. In the game, her performance is only slightly different from Susumu, with a slightly faster walking speed and a slightly faster air consumption rate. She is usually recommended for expert players. Anna is slightly older than Susumu by two months. Anna is voiced by Mitsuko Horie.
- Ataru Hori - Susumu's older brother. He works as an unlicensed Driller ever since he left home after an argument with his father, Taizo, and has been trying to find his purpose in life ever since. He is Japanese, has brown eyes, has gray hair, and wears a gray suit with a white star on the front, a gray helmet, and a red scarf. Normally has a black rabbit named Usagi (or Rabbit, in English-speaking countries) that follows him on his travels. He was first playable in Mr. Driller G. In the game, he is able to move very fast, but has a fast air consumption rate. He is usually recommended for expert players.
- Holinger-Z - A robot created by Dr. Z to take on jobs that are too dangerous for humans, and serves as Anna's butler-robot. He is a gray robot who can morph into the form of a drill. He was first playable in Mr. Driller G. In the game, Holinger-Z moves fairly slow and has a slow air consumption rate. His special feature is that he can withstand a fallen block once before dying; when a rock falls on him, his head will act as a "barrier" and the rest of the body continues to drill. He is usually recommended for beginning players. Holinger-Z's name is based on Mazinger Z.
- Usagi - Also known as Rabbit in English-speaking countries. The companion of Ataru Hori. He came from outer space and crashed to earth. Ataru saved him from the wreckage, and has since befriended him. He has normally been an unlockable character in the game since the introduction of the six standard playable characters in Mr. Driller G. In the game, he is able to move very fast, but has a fast air consumption rate. He also can jump up two blocks akin to Puchi, make blocks disappear much faster akin to Taizo, and destroy three blocks instead of one. Rather than talking, he makes unusual sounds. In a secret Scenario Driller stage in Mr. Driller G, he follows Ataru and notifies when he is near a hidden Dristone. It is debated whether his skills make gameplay easier or harder, but the former is more likely because of his numerous skills.
- Dr. Z - a brilliant scientist who sends the Driller team out on various missions around the world. He has gray hair, a round cucumber-shaped nose, and wears a lab coat and tie. He bears a slight resemblance to Dr. Ochanomizu from Astro Boy.
- Dr. Manhole - a drill scientist who has been mocked by fellow scientists, and since then has made attempts to destroy the world with giant drills. He sometimes works with the Ankoku Drillers. He was the main antagonist in the Scenario Driller mode of Mr. Driller G and Mr. Driller Drill Land (disguised as the founder of the amusement park), and appears in the Pressure Driller mode of Mr. Driller Drill Spirits, possibly the one who made the giant drill that closes in on the player.
- Ankoku Drillers - Sometimes called Team Ankoku, these are three drillers who work with Dr. Manhole to stop Susumu and his friends. The leader is Keel Sark, who is fast and is said to have ninja skills. The other members are Eguri Hatakeyama, a mean-tempered girl who uses a whiplike drill and has a crush on Ataru Hori, and Kowasu, an android stolen from the Driller laboratories who holds respect towards Taizo Hori, and uses a three-direction drill. They have so far only appeared in Mr. Driller G for the PlayStation and Mr. Driller Drill Land for the Nintendo GameCube; they are secretly playable in the former's Versus mode after certain conditions are met.
- Undergrounders - strange blue creatures that inhabit the underground world. They are the ones usually responsible for the numerous blocks that often invade the Earth. They are said to be very intelligent but a little careless. They are ruled over by a king. In the game, they occasionally appear behind drilled blocks and offer a small additional bonus. They also appear when a certain score amount is reached and another block is drilled; the undergrounder holds up a sign that says "1-Up," giving the player another life. There are apparently also undergrounders in space, except they have been colored as either purple or yellow, depending on the game.
|2000||Mr. Driller 2|
|2001||Mr. Driller G|
|2002||Mr. Driller A|
|Mr. Driller Drill Land|
|2003||Mr. Driller: Driller Puzzle|
|2004||Mr. Driller Drill Spirits|
|2006||Mr. Driller Aqua|
|2008||Mr. Driller Online|
|2009||Mr. Driller W|
|Mr. Driller: Drill Till You Drop|
|2010||Mr. Driller VS|
|2015||Mr. Driller for Kakao|
- Mr. Driller (1999) was first released to arcades for Namco's System 11 arcade hardware. It was later ported to several consoles, including the Game Boy Color, PlayStation, Dreamcast, WonderSwan Color, Windows, and mobile phones. It introduces the core components of the series, the character Susumu Hori, and a story involving creatures known as Undergrounders flooding the Earth with giant blocks.
- Mr. Driller 2 (2000) was released for arcades in Japan and later for the Game Boy Advance and Windows. The sequel features Susumu's rival, the hot-headed German driller Anna Hottenmeyer, alongside improvements such as increasing the game speed, two-player cooperative play, and additional game modes.
- Mr. Driller G (2001) was released for arcades and the PlayStation in Japan, serving as the final Mr. Driller game for arcades and the first developed by Project Driller. In addition to including a story-driven campaign mode, G adds several new playable characters, including Susumu's older brother Ataru Hori, his father Taizo Hori, the dog Puchi, and the drilling robot Horinger-Z.
- Mr. Driller A (2002) was released in Japan for the Game Boy Advance. The game presents new mechanics and concepts that are designed after classic role-playing games, as opposed to the fast-paced action of previous installments. Players can also care for and train a virtual pet named a "Pacteria" through progress made in the main game.
- Mr. Driller Drill Land (2002) was released for the GameCube in Japan. The game is more ambitious than previous Mr. Driller games, featuring multiple game modes that vary in gameplay. These modes are tied together through a menu and presentation designed after an amusement park. In 2020, the game was remastered for the Nintendo Switch and PC through Steam with English subtitles.
- Mr. Driller: Driller Puzzle (2003) was released for Japanese mobile phones through Java and i-Mode. The game has players completing a series of levels in the quickest amount of time. A sequel named Mr. Driller: Driller Puzzle S was released in 2006.
- Mr. Driller Drill Spirits (2004) was released for the Nintendo DS and takes advantage of the system's dual screens. The game reuses concepts established in Drill Land and includes boss fights, item shops, and multiplayer modes.
- Mr. Driller Aqua (2006) was released for Japanese mobile phones through the i-Mode and EZweb networks. It features an aquatic theme and was available for a limited time through Namco Bandai Games' mobile phone content providers.
- Mr. Driller Online (2008) was released for the Xbox 360 as a downloadable release. It contains an online multiplayer mode that is accessible through the Xbox Live online subscription service, though a single-player mode is also available.
- Mr. Driller: Drill Till You Drop (2009) was released for the Nintendo DSi through the DSiWare service, and is titled Sakkuto Hama Reru Hori Hori Action: Mr. Driller in Japan. It features the "Dristone" role-playing game mode from G and Drill Land, where players collect crystals that have varying effects on the game.
- Mr. Driller W (2009) was released for the WiiWare service for the Wii, and is known as Mr. Driller World in Japan. W reuses mechanics from Drill Land while being presented in high-definition and featuring online leaderboards.
- Mr. Driller VS (2010) was released for i-Mode cellular devices in Japan. It includes a local multiplayer mode and online co-op using Bluetooth. The servers were shut down in May 2011.
- Mr. Driller for Kakao (2015) was developed and published by Netmarble for iOS in South Korea. It uses free-to-play elements and involves players trying to collect pets that are trapped inside blocks.
The Mr. Driller games are puzzle action games and have been described as a cross between Puyo Puyo and Dig Dug. Players control a character that must destroy, or "drill", colorful formations of blocks in order to reach the bottom of a well. Blocks of the same color can connect to each other; if four of a kind connect, they are destroyed, which can be used to create chain reactions. The player has a constantly depleting oxygen meter that can be replenished by collecting blue air capsules. Oxygen is lost by destroying brown "x"-marked blocks, which take five hits to destroy. Certain characters have their own attributes and abilities, such as depleting oxygen less and moving faster. Later games introduce mechanics such as star-marked blocks that disappear after a brief period, boss fights, power-ups, and game modes that implement ideas from role-playing games.
The original Mr. Driller was created by R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 director Yasuhito Nagaoka and former Tecmo employee Hideo Yoshizawa. Nagaoka drafted the game in 1998 as a second sequel to Dig Dug, a classic Namco arcade game from 1982, aptly named Dig Dug 3. The game was designed to be more puzzle-like in gameplay structure, a contrast to the action-oriented gameplay of Dig Dug and Dig Dug II. Yoshizawa made several alterations to Nagaoka's prototype build, including the renaming to Mr. Driller. Namco released the game in arcades in 1999 to critical and commercial success. Mr. Driller was ported to several platforms, including the Dreamcast, PlayStation, and Game Boy Color.
Yoshizawa and Nagaoka quickly began work on a sequel, Mr. Driller 2, in late 1999. The two worked to implement new features, such as a second-player character and making the gameplay faster and more chaotic than the original. The sequel was released for arcades in 2000 to moderate success and was followed by a port for the Game Boy Advance in 2001. The Game Boy Advance version was a launch title for the system and sold over 100,000 copies, however, the game wasn't released in North America and Europe until 2005.
The third entry, Mr. Driller G, was released in 2001 for arcades and later the PlayStation. The game was created to be more story-driven than the previous installments, which expanded on the Mr. Driller universe and helped bridge the connection between the Mr. Driller and Dig Dug franchises. Taizo Hori, the protagonist of the Dig Dug series, is a playable character in G and is revealed to be the father of Susumu and his older brother Ataru Hori. The PlayStation version was only moderately successful with around 10,000 being sold during launch week.
Yoshizawa intended G to be the final game in the series, but Namco was approached by Nintendo to create a Mr. Driller game for the GameCube that took advantage of the console's GameCube – Game Boy Advance link cable peripheral. This resulted in the creation of Mr. Driller A for the Game Boy Advance and Mr. Driller Drill Land for the GameCube in 2002. A implemented a Tamagotchi-inspired virtual pet that could be transferred to Drill Land. Though Drill Land received the most acclaim out of any game in the series, its exclusivity to the GameCube made it a commercial failure. Namco became less interested in supporting the franchise as a result. Mr. Driller Drill Spirits, the second portable entry in the series, was released in 2004 for the Nintendo DS and reused many of Drill Land's game modes and assets, though condensed to meet the system's hardware limitations. Namco's North American division stripped most of its content in order for it to be ready in time for the launch of the DS in the United States, a move that garnered significant criticism from publications.
Namco Bandai Games became the owner of the Mr. Driller intellectual property after Namco's 2005 merger with Bandai. Mr. Driller Online (2008) for the Xbox 360, Mr. Driller: Drill Till You Drop (2009) for DSiWare, and Mr. Driller W (2009) for WiiWare all recycle art assets and pre-established concepts from earlier games. Yoshizawa considered Drill Till You Drop to be the "culmination" of the series and likely the last one he would develop. By the early 2010s, Namco Bandai largely abandoned the property outside several mobile phone spin-offs.
In 2020, Bandai Namco Entertainment began to remaster of Drill Land for the Nintendo Switch and PC as part of its Encore series of remasters. The decision to remaster the game was based on the success of the remake for Katamari Damacy (2004). Yoshizawa, who had left Bandai Namco in 2016, supervised the project. The remaster was released in 2020 worldwide, titled Mr. Driller Encore in Japan. Maya Ito, the producer for Encore, says Bandai Namco would consider continuing the series if the remake was popular enough.
The scrolling shooters Baraduke (1985) and Bakutotsu Kijutei (1988) have retroactively been connected to the Mr. Driller series through Baraduke's protagonist, Masuyo Tobi, having been formerly married to Taizo Hori. The 2002 arcade game Star Trigon adopts many of Mr. Driller's characters and concepts. Star Trigon is a puzzle game where players hop across planets to create triangles in order to rescue yellow creatures. Project Driller developed Star Trigon and is considered a spin-off of the Mr. Driller series. The game was ported to mobile phones and Windows in 2008.
In 2005, Namco revived its Dig Dug series with Dig Dug: Digging Strike for the Nintendo DS. The game was designed to be closer to the company's original vision of Mr. Driller, and features gameplay that combines mechanics present in Dig Dug, Dig Dug II, and Mr. Driller. Digging Strike was part of Namco's continuing efforts in making Dig Dug and Mr. Driller part of the company's pillar franchises. It received mixed reviews and was primarily criticized for its lack of long-lasting appeal and replay value. The 2005 compilation NamCollection includes Mr. Driller along with four other Namco-published PlayStation games for the PlayStation 2, in addition to bonus material such as conceptual art.
|Mr. Driller (PlayStation)||75%|
|Mr. Driller (Dreamcast)||82%|
|Mr. Driller (Game Boy Color)||65%|
|Mr. Driller 2||65%||62/100|
|Mr. Driller Drill Land||89%|
|Mr. Driller A||80%|
|Mr. Driller Drill Spirits||71%||70/100|
|Mr. Driller Online||50%||45/100|
|Mr. Driller W||75%||71/100|
|Mr. Driller Drill Till You Drop||77%||73/100|
In Japan, the Mr. Driller series was commercially and critically successful, and its characters have become synonymous with the Namco brand. The original received the 1st Arcadia Grand Prize from the Japanese magazine Monthly Arcadia, and Namco received a prestigious award from Edge for Drill Land. Famitsu awarded the Game Boy Color port of Mr. Driller, Mr. Driller G, and the Game Boy Advance port of Mr. Driller 2 the Silver Hall of Fame awards, while Mr. Driller A and Drill Land received the Gold Hall of Fame award.
Western perception of the series has varied depending on the game, though consensus agrees its gameplay is simple and addictive. The Dreamcast conversion of Mr. Driller received negative attention from the press for being technically inferior to Namco's previous Dreamcast offering, the 3D weapon-based fighter Soulcalibur. Journalist Jeremy Parish speculates this backlash resulted in the series receiving a largely lukewarm reception outside Japan.
Mr. Driller G and Drill Land have been ranked as the best in the series for their quality and amount of content, while Online, W, and Drill Till You Drop have been listed as the weakest for their poor presentation and lack of innovation. Online in particular was negatively received for its online multiplayer, which multiple reviews found to have been unfinished and "broken". Drill Spirits and home ports of Mr. Driller and Mr. Driller 2 were criticized for being barren of content, though the Japanese and European releases of Drill Spirits have been identified as being a far bigger improvement over the North American version for their inclusion of additional game modes.
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