Mr. DRILLER Online
The One That Drilled Away...
Initially, I planned to revisit Mr. Driller Online as the series itself was a part of my childhood in gaming. Mr. Driller was a puzzle game released on the PlayStation 1 and Dreamcast in 2000. With the exception of a DS version and a GBA version that came out five years after its original Japanese release, the series remained stagnant in the United States. I've written a fleshed out "retrospection" of the series before where I go into detail about the meta of the series itself. For example, Susumu, the protagonist, is the son of Taizo and Kissy, the protagonists of Namco's Dig Dug and Baraduke respectively.
Mr. Driller Online, an Xbox 360 exclusive released in 2008, would be the second to last console game released in the series. That honor would go to Mr. Driller W, released a year later on the Nintendo Wii. Unfortunately, the options for fans who wish to play classic Mr. Driller are very scarce. Sometime between March and April, the Xbox One compatible version of Mr. Driller Online was delisted along with the Xbox 360 version many years ago. This lines up with the following delistings for the original Mr. Driller on PSN and Drill Til You Drop on DSiWare.
The Drill That Will Pierce The Heavens, Except Underground
The only reason why I'm able to play Mr. Driller Online right now is because of a purchase I made over 13 years ago when I first recieved my Xbox 360. A day after my birthday, I used my points I recieved as a gift to purchase this title among other Xbox Live Arcade games. At the time, I was a fan of the series, a 16 year old who would have never guessed how valuable such a purchase would be in 2022. The only other way to obtain this game would be to purchase the Namco Museum Virtual Arcade for the Xbox 360. Mr. Driller Online comes bundled with this game although the disc itself may or may not work with an Xbox One or Series X.
So what is it that you're getting with this game? Honestly, at first glance, not much for what you see is what you get. There are two game modes, Standard and Quest, with five stages for each mode representing a difficulty. These difficulties range from the easiest (100m) to hardest (Infinite/Survival mode). How the game works is that you select your driller out of a roster of six and try to reach the end goal without losing all of your lives.
Mr. Driller Online Is Simple In Its Approach Yet Lacking In Content
Using the American stage as an example, the goal is 500m with each checkpoint reached every 100m. That means the player will need to reach five checkpoints in order to make it to the end of the stage. Drilling is a simple measure as the player needs to tap the button to make their descent. There are certain blocks, known as "X" blocks, that will require multiple drills and will cut a player's O2 tank by 20. The two ways to lose a life is to get crushed by a block above and run out of oxygen. Depending on the character, the O2 tank will either deplete faster or slower than normal.
Susumu and Anna for example are the "default" characters, with balanced stats in speed and oxygen. The dog and the robot, Puchi and Horinger-Z, have above average oxygen meaning they can survive longer without needing an air tank. They are slower than most of the cast, however, yet this is balanced with their unique abilities. With the exception of Susumu and Anna, every other character has a unique trait. Susumu's father, Taizo, has the lowest O2 tank and the slowest movement speed. He more than makes up for it by having the fastest drill speed, making him a good choice for veteran players.
Thank Goodness Re-Downloads Exist
Mr. Driller Online serves one purpose only and that's to offer an arcade-like experience to fans of Mr. Driller. As most of the assets are taken from Drill Land, which wouldn't see a release in the States until last year, it's the first time many of these characters make their appearance. For players at the time whose only experience was the first game eight years prior, seeing the new characters without much of a story would be awkward. If you were to only play for the experience, then this is the most honest drilling one can hope to achieve.
One of the quips I have about Drill Land is that it strayed too far from the classic formula. Drilling is the objective, but it took the Quest levels featured here and made it the entire game. Perhaps I'll give the game another shot, but for a pure experience in HD, Mr. Driller Online is the best way to experience one of Bandai Namco's niche yet addicting titles.
It's a shame that it's currently delisted, but hopefully buying the physical copy means it's backwards compatible with modern hardware. This is why preservation matters. You never know when something will get delisted.
Mr. Driller Online was available on the Xbox Live Arcade marketplace.