Drill Dozer Retrospective

So last time I said I would try playing 2 games simultaneously. Last time I also admitted I'm not very good at video games.. Well it turns out Mega Man Zero is hard. Hard enough that I got stuck on the first real boss and decided to just drop it.. However, I did complete Drill Dozer for the first time! I think that's enough for a blog post.

Memory: Hollywood Videos and Grame Crazy

Since I did not play Drill Dozer as a kid, this story is one about video games in general.

The world was different when I was a kid. It was the age of Blockbuster, and all its similar but smaller knockoff chains as well! My family went to a place called "Hollywood Video", and it was so cool. What made this place so special was that it was connected to a Game Crazy, the place where I bought all my games.

I have vivid memories of my family driving to rent a VHS or DVD

walking through the so early 2000's Game Crazy entrance (which was inside the building)

and staring through the glass display cabinet like the GBA cartridges were precious gemstones. There was also CRT's with game demos that you could play. So cool!

I also remember making some of the worst business deals in the history of deals, possibly ever, by selling multiple of my games for cents on the dollar just to afford 1 new one. Though in my defense, I did not have access to places like ebay so it was hard to find a buyer for my beat up "Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2" Cartridge.

The world was a simpler place back in those days..

Mechanic: Consistency

I've been slowly reading through this book on game design, and one thing it's mentioned a couple of times is the importance of consistent communication to the player. The author argues (and I agree) that you should have a "language" that effectively and consistently represents game mechanics, so that players can build an intuition about those mechanics without the game spelling it out every time. Some (maybe overused) examples of this are making explosive things red, or making climbable ledges white. It doesn't necessarily need to be color, it could be other things like symbols, shape, sounds, you get the picture.

In Drill Dozer, you can spin your drill clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on if you hold down the L or R buttons. Multiple mechanics make use of this, where the direction you spin your drill matters. To communicate this, the level assets are colored red for right, and blue for left. Super neat! The game explains this once and you build an intuition "red means right button, blue left".

Except there was one sequence where the game flipped this color <--> button mapping!

👇 This unholy rocket shooting demon robot 👇

I don't know if it was a bug or an oversight, but it drove me crazy! Even though I had only been playing the game for a couple hours, it was incredibly hard to get my brain to "flip" the colors. As a result I spent probably close to an hour pressing the wrong button, then cursing. Looking back, this is a great example of just how important it is to be consistent with how you communicate things in games.

It's really hard to re-learn what's already been taught, so be intentional!

SIDENOTE: don't let this complaint give you the wrong impression. Drill Dozer is a pretty fun platformer with some neat ideas. I'll probably bring it up again in a future blog post about making the most of a single mechanic.

This article is pretty late, as I've already almost completed my next GBA game... The just released Goodboy Galaxy.

Spoiler alert, it's really good!