Drill Dozer Final Hands-On Impressions

Fans of old-school, side-scrolling action games should keep an eye on this spunky GBA side-scroller.

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What's often lost amid all the hype about next-generation systems and games is the fact that the Game Boy Advance still has the largest installed user base of any system on the market. That fact, however, isn't lost on Nintendo, the makers of the venerable portable system, as it has a brand-new side-scroller called Drill Dozer. The game has already been released in Japan, but we've managed to get our hands on a retail copy of the North American version, which is slated to ship early next month.

Drill Dozer puts you in the shoes of a spunky girl named Jill, daughter of the boss of the renowned gang of thieves known as the Red Dozers. They may sound intimidating, but they're really just a friendly bunch who swipe treasure while trying not to hurt anyone. Like any organized crime unit, though, the Red Dozers have rivals. The ruthless Skullker gang has ambushed Jill's parents and stolen the Dozers' crown jewel, a large, red diamond. It's up to Jill to hunt down those who are responsible, exact some payback, and retrieve the precious red diamond.

Throughout the game, Jill rides in a contraption called a drill dozer, a sort of powered armor with an extremely strong drill attached to the front of it. As a nod to everyone's great love of power tools, the game cartridge actually includes a rumble feature that kicks in any time you activate the drill. You can walk in either direction in your drill dozer, as well as jump up on ledges. You'll use the shoulder buttons on the GBA to spin the drill in either a clockwise or a counterclockwise direction, and you'll be able to drill up, down, left, and right. The drill serves as a weapon and as a means of transport and puzzle-solving. Early on you'll use the drill against roving bandits, and you'll drill through soft spots in the wall of a warehouse to gain access.

Along the way in each of the game's stages, you'll find extra gears that you can add to your drill dozer. The new hardware lets you shift your drill bit into higher gears for added destructive power and for longer bouts of drilling. A translucent interface pops up onscreen to show you when you are able to shift into a higher power. Once you get the second gear upgrade, you're able to drill through tougher barriers and keep your drill bit spinning indefinitely.

The evil Skullkers have messed with Jill's family. Big mistake.
The evil Skullkers have messed with Jill's family. Big mistake.

There's a lot more to Drill Dozer than just drilling through enemies and soft bits of wall, though. Even early on you'll find parts of the environment with which you can interact. You can drill into blocks of jelly, for example, and then suddenly reverse gear, which will give you a small boost to get you off the block. The higher the gear you're in, the farther and higher you'll get boosted. You'll also find threaded air conditioning ducts that you can blaze through using your drill. Boss fights early in the game are pretty fun as well, requiring you to use old-school tactics like dodging attacks and then going after the exposed weak points. One boss is a police robot that has you jumping over giant handcuff lassos and then using your drill to unscrew a bolt that's holding the robot together. It's also possible to buy upgrades for your dozer in between missions by using chips that you collect on your adventures.

Thus far, we've had a good amount of fun with Drill Dozer. It's definitely a game that should appeal to fans of old-school side-scrolling action. Even though we're not too deep into the campaign yet, the game seems pretty fun and inventive so far. Stay tuned to GameSpot for a full review of the game later this week.

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