Every time we think the rehashed simplemindedness of 2D side-scrollers is dead, some game oozes out that keeps the genre limping along for one more go-round. There's something inescapably captivating about a solid platformer, and that something is certainly present in Drill Dozer.
From the people who brought us Pokemon comes this throwback to old-school game design with a generous helping of Sly Cooper's friendly-burglar-robbing-the-bad-guy theme. You're Jill, the self-proclaimed "spunky daughter" of a crime boss who's currently laid up in the hospital. While he regains his strength, your job is to reclaim an oversized red diamond that was stolen from under your thieving nose.
In grand tradition, that means hopping into your Drill Dozer, a sort of jumping mech/car with a giant drill bit mounted on its grill, and running left-to-right through predictably-themed levels while searching for switches, hidden treasures and paper-thin advances in the game's plot.
Dozer keeps everything simple by focusing on minor puzzle solving (often involving rotating things clockwise or counterclockwise with your drill) and tricky jumping. The biggest concern you have in each level is finding two power-ups that let your robotic Dozer drill longer, and then it's off to rip up a boss that uses the same attack pattern over and over again despite the fact that it inevitably reveals the boss's only weak point.
In between boss fights, you're plowing through rows of lowlife rival thugs and corrupt clown police. Don't expect that to change, even when your search takes the Dozer underwater and (gasp) into the sky. If you're willing to excuse the derivative ideas at work there's a perfectly presentable, if occasionally cutesy, tribute to classic gaming here.
As a well-built 2D machine, there's little to pick apart about Dozer. The animation can be choppy from time to time and you can only screw and unscrew things with your Dozer for so long until you want to drill your own eyes out.
The included Rumble Pak jukes and vibrates with every screw attack but it's more of a small "psst... rumble" than a "HEY I'M SHAKING!" rockabout. Chances are most current-gen gamers' heads will detonate at the very sight of the bright, simplistic, cheery world of Dozer. Still, if this turns out to be the classic platformer's last moment in the sun (and possibly the GBA's as well) at least the genre saw itself out with some charisma.