Meet Jill. She's your average girl living in your average city who goes to your average school. Oh, and she's also the leader of a gang of thieves and an ace dozer pilot. When rival thieving gang puts Jill's dad in the hospital and steals her precious red diamond, Jill climbs into her custom drill dozer and screws off for revenge. It's Drill Dozer for the Game Boy Advance from Nintendo and it's a breath of fresh 2D gaming air. Aboard the drill dozer Jill has two high-powered drills at her disposal, allowing her to drill right through walls, small objects, air ducts, and rival thieves. In a time when the Game Boy Advance library is rapidly becoming loaded with ports of old games and cheaply-made budget titles based on childrens' animation, Drill Dozer provides some great action with just the right amount of challenge.
Jill has a long road ahead of her. After all, she and her Red Dozer gang aren't the only people itching to get their hands on that diamond. She's up against the Skullkers and their mysterious leader plus the city's police force led by the muffin-haired Inspector Carrie. Over the course of Drill Dozer's ten or so levels (an exact count would be spoiling the neat after-game extras), Jill will have to face them all. Fortunately she's well armed. She rides around in her drill dozer and uses the machine's drills to interact with the world around her. Is there a wall in the way? Knock it down. Item box won't open? Crack it open. Locked door? Spin the lock's dial. The game is full of clever ways to influence the landscape.
Controlling the drills is simple. The R button spins the drill clockwise and the L button spins counterclockwise. Typically which direction the drill spins doesn't matter. Walls and item boxes crumble no matter which way Jill drills. On the other hand, loose screws and lock dials only spin in certain directions and air ducts require specific types of spins in order for Jill to sail through in a snap. Hold a drill button down and a power meter appears on screen. At first Jill is limited to only a single gear's worth of power, but as she collects more dozer gears she'll be able to shift up into second gear and, later, third gear. For added effect the game pak includes a small rumble function that causes a slight vibration every time the drill dozer's drills are spinning. The drills stop if you let off the button or fail to shift up into the next gear, and tapping the button for the opposite drilling direction causes the drill dozer to execute a backwards dash. Basically, players who become masters of the drill will find there is no obstacle that cannot be opened, bashed, or otherwise overcome.
Then there are Drill Dozer's levels. The game starts off slow, holding your hand and teaching you the basics. As the game progresses the difficulty increases, and as levels become larger additional hazards such as lasers & spiky floors appear. The object of the game is to move to the end of each level in search of that special red diamond. Along the way Jill will encounter the Skullker boss's many drill-related battle vehicles and Inspector Carrie's battle mech on several occasions, leading to the inevitable boss fights. Finish the game and skilled players will figure out how to unlock the extra secret levels, and trust me that these levels don't hold back. The extra levels are designed with care to challenge anyone who thinks the game is "too easy". Expect to have to switch drill gears at a moment's notice and dodge hazards while maintaining third gear. Best of all, the extra levels aren't so frustrating that I've wanted to turn the game off and walk away. If I fail an objective it's easy to see how I failed and what I need to do to succeed. However, seeing the answer and implementing it are entirely different things.
Drill Dozer has a lot of spirit, and that's a compliment that isn't thrown around much these days in terms of video games. Jill herself is a very likable and adorable character despite the fact that she never actually speaks (beyond yips and yahs) or really leaves the confines of her drill dozer during gameplay. Besides, you have to admire a game that makes a big celebratory deal out of picking up a new gear. Combine the game's sharp controls (it actually feels like the drill dozer has weight to it) and Jill's dynamic spirit and I have to say that I'm eager for a return to the Drill Dozer world. I'm ready for the 3D Nintendo Revolution version and the 2D dual-screen sequel. Drill Dozer is the most fun you will have with a Game Boy Advance for quite a while. It's a fresh experience that borrows elements from gaming's best 2D platformers while implementing solid new concepts for an overall fun experience. Take a chance on Drill Dozer. I bet you'll have as much fun with it as I have.