Play as a thief who destroys the structure of buildings all in the quest to steal back a precious gem from some thugs who roughed up her dad. Yeah, this is an E-rated game... HOW?!
When people mention Game Freak, they're usually talking about the Pokemon franchise. After all, the development house has been coasting on easy street since those little buggers infested Japan back in '97. And so, for almost ten years, Game Freak's big draw was an electric yellow mouse who could only say its name. No more, though. After a long period of mediocre sequels, the assembly behind Master Balls and waking up a fat tub of lard with a flute has brought us Drill Dozer, a freaking awesome action/platformer.
The game stars Jill, a spunky young thief in charge of a group of thieves now that her father is out of commission (beaten to a pulp by their rivals, the Skullkers, skeleton-looking cronies who ride around on rollerblades). After the same ne'er-do-wells who roughed up her dad go on to steal the precious Red Diamond from Jill and the gang, they've got no choice but to deploy their newfound leader to get it back.
She won't be unarmed, though. The game revolves around using your Drill Dozer: a small, tank-like vehicle that allows Jill full mobility and is equipped with a handy drill at the head of the machine. By pressing L and R, the drill spins (clockwise and counter-clockwise, respectively). Depending on how many power-ups you've collected, you'll be able to take advantage of one to three gears (it resets after each level). With the drill, you'll be able to break through walls and take down any enemies that come your way. Yes, this means that to get where you need to go, you'll need to drill through the bodies of your foes. I swear, if this game wasn't cartoony, Jack Thompson would be all over it like butter on pancakes.
Thanks to the Rumble Pak built into the game, the whole drilling sensation comes across really well, and it's admittedly a lot of fun to make your own your path. What makes this game great, though, is that the drill is used for everything. Solving puzzles (like turning a lock a certain number of times to get it to open) and platforming via the power of the drill are pretty common, so you'll really have to get precise when using the shoulder triggers. And when it comes to boss battles, loosening the screws on giant mechs so that they fall apart is just plain fun.
When it comes to presentation, the game really shines. Not only are the toon-like sprites vibrant and colorful, but the environments are quite detailed; it's almost as good as something you might see in a two-dimensional DS title. Also, the face that Skullkers make when you drill through their stomachs is just priceless. It's really funny in a sick, sadistic sort of way.
Sound-wise, Drill Dozer is simply average. It really feels like the same high-tempo rock melody is played throughout the entire game. This isn't the case, but it certainly speaks of the variety present. The sound effects are really great, though, and overall the title shows a lot of production quality.
In the end, I am really surprised that Game Freak had it in them to make a fantastic game that is completely original and free from Thundershocks and Quick Attacks. This is, hands-down, one of the best games on the GBA, and since not many titles of interest have been released on the platform lately, you'd do well to pick up a copy.