Crispy Gamer

Live Ware: TiQal and Mr. Driller Online

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It's always disappointing to see a week go by with no new Xbox Live Arcade games. To help ease the pain, Microsoft has dropped the price on two of the service's better games. Sierra Online's Assault Heroes and the original DOOM have been discounted from 800 Microsoft Points to 400. Both of those titles were great deals at their original price, and the recent price drop makes them twice as desirable. If you've not picked them up yet, this is a perfect time to enjoy these fine titles. Be sure to download the trailer for the upcoming Assault Heroes 2, as well.

Hopefully by now, everyone has downloaded the Halo 3 Heroic Map Pack, which was recently marked down to the low, low price of free. Now, even cheapskates can enjoy the game's three new maps. Also on the "free" list is the song "Still Alive" for Rock Band. "Still Alive" is, of course, the unbelievably catchy song that plays over the end credits of Portal, one of the fine games in Valve's wonderful The Orange Box.

If you've been playing Switchball, you might want to load it up again, as Sierra Online just put out an update for the game that enhanced both the game's graphics and leaderboards. Pinball junkies should pick up the new Rocky and Bullwinkle table that has been released for Pinball FX. It's only 200 points, and it's pretty darn fun (even if it's not a recreation of the classic Bullwinkle pinball machine).

TiQal

Developer: Slapdash Games

Publisher: Slapdash Games

Price: 800 Microsoft Points

Originally appeared on: N/A

RECOMMENDATION: Try It

At the risk of sounding like a Jerry Seinfeld routine, what's the deal with all these puzzle games that are set in some sort of South American ruins? Jewel Quest, Zuma Deluxe and now TiQal are all guilty of this. Is the setting supposed to make the games more exciting? Having to press an extra button to skip some lame text in between stages doesn't add depth to the experience. We don't care about a mystical statue or a rare gem that we've unlocked by matching some colored blocked. We don't want to pretend that we're Indiana Jones. We just want to play our Bejeweled variant.

Anyhoo ? TiQal. Yet another Xbox Live Arcade puzzle game, only this time with a hard to pronounce name (Tee-call? Tee-kuhl? Tie-qual? Tickle?). The gameplay is kind of a cross between Tetris and Lumines. The bottom of the play field is covered with multi-colored blocks. Your job is to drop Tetris-y blocks onto the stack in order to form a 4x4 square of like-colored blocks, causing them to disappear. After matching them, you have a few seconds to stack more blocks of the same color onto the pile to earn bonus points. As you play, you'll earn multiple power-ups that help reduce your workload by destroying blocks for you.

The further you progress into the game, the more power-ups and block configurations you unlock, adding a bit of variety as you play. With 120 levels, the adventure mode is pretty lengthy, and you can even play a co-op game with a friend. TiQal's not a bad game, but it's just one more entry in a genre that has already flooded Live Arcade. It's only worth the 800 points if you're absolutely dying for another puzzle game.

Mr. Driller Online

Developer: Namco Bandai

Publisher: Namco Bandai

Price: 800 Microsoft Points

Originally appeared on: N/A

RECOMMENDATION: Try It

Hey, what do you know? Another puzzle game! At least Mr. Driller has a bit of history behind it, and the game's bright pastels and "Powerpuff Girls"-esque sense of design help it stand out from the countless other puzzle games on Live Arcade. The original Mr. Driller was released on the PlayStation and Dreamcast back in 2000 (an arcade version hit in '99), and there have been multiple sequels since. Although Namco also has a nasty habit of keeping the best titles in the series as Japan-only releases.

The game is a puzzle-centric take on Namco's classic, Dig Dug. Actually, in the Driller storyline, Susumu Hori, the titular Mr. Driller, is the son of Dig Dug's hero. The goal is to simply burrow down through a seemingly endless pile of colored blocks. As you drill, the blocks that rest on top of the ones that you destroy will collapse. If the falling blocks connect with others of the same color in a group of four or more, they'll disappear. This can result in some huge chains, which is good for your score, but potentially deadly for you. Those falling blocks can be deadly if they land on you, you see. Another threat comes in the form of the lack of oxygen underground. You'll have to constantly be on the lookout for oxygen capsules to refill your rapidly draining air supply.

Mr. Driller is a fantastic game, and much more challenging than its cutesy appearance would have you think. Although MDO lacks some of the more involved modes in some of the more recent titles in the series, the arcade mode is quite fun and the Quest mode adds an extra bit of challenge by forcing you to fulfill specific goals as you dig downward.

The gameplay graphics look rather dull and blurry compared to the hi-res border that surrounds the screen. It would have been nice if Namco had created a completely high-definition version of the game. Even worse, however, is the fact that the online mode is completely busted. Despite having a couple of promising modes -- a standard vs. race and a tag team battle -- the game's online component is rendered unplayable thanks to insulting amounts of lag. Given that the game's name is Mr. Driller Online, you would think that Namco would have bothered testing the online mode before launching the game.

Despite the greatness of the series, it's impossible to fully recommend Mr. Driller Online. The single-player mode is definitely a treat, despite the lackluster graphics, but the useless online mode takes away a lot of the game's value. If Namco Bandai gets a patch released that fixes things, then you can bump this score up to "Buy It." As it stands now, however, only the most dedicated Driller fans should bother.