Mr. Driller on the PS1 may look cute, but his quest to the bottom is treacherous. As he digs below the surface, he must be mindful of his depleting air supply and falling blocks that can flatten our hero like a pancake. How low can you go?
Mr. Driller is a puzzle game where your general goal is to dig to the bottom. In Arcade mode, you’re trying to dig to 2,500 ft or 5,000 ft. In Time Attack, you’re taking on pre-defined courses with an eye on reaching the goal below the time threshold. If you’re in the mood for a marathon, you can also take on the endless Survival mode.
Controlling our hero is fairly straightforward. He can drill in four directions, clearing coloured blocks of a single colour in one button press. If he drills a group of two or more blocks of the same colour, they all disappear at once. Though your primary goal is to move downward, he can also walk left-and-right, as well as climb to higher platforms if the height difference is only one block.
Sounds simple, right? Getting a hang of the controls and the general flow of play is a breeze, but reaching the depths below is quite the challenge. Preventing you from button-mashing your way to the bottom are brown blocks that are harder to break. If for whatever reason you decide to put in the extra elbow grease to break one, your air supply will take a dramatic dip.
Speaking of which, air is crucial. It depletes over time, making the air tanks strewn about a vital resource. However, they become scarce the further you go. Towards the end of the arcade mode, air tanks are oftentimes surrounded by brown blocks.
At this point, you have to get clever. By clearing the blocks below, you can cause the air tank to fall your way. Be careful though, as falling blocks can also kill you. That said, if a falling block forms a three-block formation, it sticks to the group. Four or more, and the whole thing disappears. This can work to your advantage and detriment depending on the situation.
Navigating through the ever-changing landscape is a thrill. Between the threat of falling blocks and a seeping air supply, you have to move quickly and intelligently down the well. My first few plays were awful, as I was routinely getting squashed before reaching the first milestone. However, the game’s “one-more-try” appeal kept me going. I’m still not great at it, but I’ve gotten a lot better relative to where I started.
Its unique blend of puzzle and action make Mr. Driller a novel title in the genre. Carving your way through the blocks is always exciting, as you’re always in a race against time while also trying to avoid the avalanches you create along the way. Finding that lane where you can dig straight down for a while or narrowly escaping death by weaving your way out of harm’s way is incredibly satisfying. Until I’m able to track down other entries in the series, I’ll continue to keep the PlayStation Classic for one more round.