To illustrate why this game sold so poorly, I used science (see below) [I know that first dip there isn't nearly as pronounced as it should be, but I wouldn't have a lot of room to work with only two percentage points].
Drill Dozer is one of those twilight games
, the ones that come out in the death throes of a system and use its abilities to the fullest (and yes, I'm aware that Twilight Princess is one of them. That's the joke). The sprites are large and colorful, the sound is about as good as it gets on the GBA, and slowdown really only occurs when the game is going through a drillgasm.
I tried to think of a less immature way of putting that, but it fits too well. See, when you press one of the trigger buttons, the mech claps its stubby half-drill hands into a gigantic drill bit, a giant gear and throttle display slides over the screen, your GBA starts a mechanical whine, the Rumble Pak starts up, and whatever was in front of Jill is probably not going to be there when the game calms the fuck down. But there's more. By collecting the two higher gears that are hidden somewhere in the level, you gain the ability to Shift Up, which is even more... that. Once the throttle hits the high area, you can quickly let go and then hit the trigger again as the whining intensifies, the Dozer spits incredible clouds of smoke and sparks through its tailpipe, the screen jumps a bit as the overlay does something flashy, the Rumble Pak has seizures, and Jill screams "HI-YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" (The 3rd gear also lets the Dozer stay in this state indefinitely, which I am trying very hard not to make a stamina joke about.) The word drillgasm is very apt.
So in case you couldn't tell, Drill Dozer is a game about tearing through things with a very large drill. This is the basic game mechanic. The L and R triggers spin the drill in different directions, and you can shift up to increase the speed of the drill. Pressing the other trigger while drilling with the other doesn't cause the Dozer to forcefully eject its gearbox through the tailpipe, but instead rocket you backward varying amounts, based on what gear you were in. And that's it! Yeah, you can do normal jumplookduckslidewalk platformy stuff, but I shouldn't even have to tell you that.
The reviews I've seen on this game usually complain about how that mechanic wears thin after a while, but those people consistently rate Super Mario Bros. as one of the best games ever, which means they are hypocritical and not to be trusted. Drill Dozer introduces new mechanics and obstacles at a steady rate, unlike SMB, which finishes up with Bullet Bills and whatnot quickly. In contrast, there are blocks of varying toughness, blocks that can only be attacked in one direction, blocks that time back in, rotating screws, extremely convenient and nonsensical grooved air ducts that you can travel in, extremely convenient and nonsensical window washing clamps that you can use to launch yourself around, extremely con... you get it. This society seems to run on giant drill mechs as normal maintenance equipment, which is super cool to say the least. For two stages, you're kitted out with an air prop or water prop on your drill, which serve as your new methods of transportation. This isn't quite as fun as the normal game, but they do wonders with breaking up the monotony.
Oh yeah, and there are enemies, too. There are thugs that are so slow and stupid that you deserve it if they hit you, robots that temporarily electrify themselves to dissuade you from touching them with your large metal weapon, annoying quick little dogs that you have to attack from behind (for no apparent reason, so it's just too easy to make buttrape jokes), giant policebots that are kept together by one giant screw (which I'm sure does wonders for mass-production and manufacturing costs but has one rather obvious drawback), and... a lot of others. Go read an enemy FAQ if you really care that much. They're never terribly threatening, though, to tell you the truth. I've never gotten a game over once, but I also bought every reserve energy tank possible, so with you can keep the game at a better challenge level if you aren't a wuss like me.
The bosses are fantastic. Really, they are. There's a giant policedroid (held together with TWO large and extremely obvious screws) where you have to drill its bottom vent (more buttrape), an animated lighthouse that you have to enter and destroy from the inside out (which cripples various defense systems on the outside when you get spit back out), the same policedroid that takes advantage of the whole L=blue R=red color association going on, using a bomb that uses the opposite colors that you need to neutralize it (and it's a game of hot potato where the opponent will cheat to boot), a climate-control satellite, where you have to negotiate an airborne maze to get at it... among others. My personal favorite is the final boss...
SPOILERS HERE! SCROLL DOWN TILL THE WORD "OKAY!" IS AT THE TOP OF YOUR BROWSER WINDOW!
who goes crazy with the power of the magic diamonds that are important for some reason, and flies around in a giant honeycomb shield in his office chair at supersonic speeds. This particular battle has all of your gears gone, so you have to take him out with your fists. That's right, Jill, the kindergartner, smacks him outta the air mid-energy tackle. It's so fucking awesome.
The graphics? They're pretty nice. Late GBA game means they know to use bright sprites with high contrast, which looks good even on everyone's favorite whipping screen. There's a bit of repetition to the Metal City stage, but thankfully most areas are much better detailed. Of particular note is one of the secret areas, where the foreground elements are the same pattern as the background - leading to a lot of "oh shit where am I" moments. (This is intentional, it's not a flaw.)
On the artistic side everything is just grand - there's a red gear motif to the machinery, everything is wonderfully animated, and the sprites get quite large. Everything has a nice, solid, chunky feeling to it, which makes it more fun to turn into a spiraling whoosh of shrapnel. The Dozer in particular has so much going on at any given time, so I doubt you'll really tire of looking at it the whole game. And if any disappointed loli fans are still reading this, you can make Jill get out and bend in different directions whenever you want. Which should be never, as I don't think even the hardest-pressed pedophile would find this attractive. There is one moment that is hard on the eyes: one of the boss fights stretches the pixels constantly on the boss itself. This isn't too much of a problem though, as you spend most of the time inside that boss.
The sound is certainly fine. If you've ever played the GBA Pokemon games, you can tell that the whole thing was probably composed with the exact same specifications. I'm a bad hand at music anyway, and my opinion probably won't influence yours.
So, overall? I don't really expect you to buy the thing now, but download a ROM or something and play Drill Dozer. I didn't even mention the brutal secret stages that explore every mechanic to its fullest, or the secret treasures in every stage that require a sharp eye and a lot of skill to get. Just play it.
I fuckin' love this game!