A Critical Look at Mega Man 4 Stages: Drill Man

Drill Man's Stage and Music mm4drill_01

The first section is filled with Taketentos and Metalls, with a Jumbig breaking it up in the middle. This is a good pairing, as Taketento appears close enough to the Mets to make it difficult to avoid and shoot them without also alerting the Mets or moving far enough back to cause Taketento to respawn. Meanwhile, running forward and shooting the Mets first leaves us with a couple Taketentos following as we try to climb the stairs. After Jumbig we encounter more of the same, but this time the Taketentos are closer to our height, making this more of a direct shoot-out. This worked quite well for only five screens worth of action.

mm4drill_02

Battontons guard this short platforming section. We have a choice of fighting them first, or taking a short hop under the first and only destroying the second. This is also a good spot for a health refill, as it might be needed here, and it slows the player down for a moment in the corner of the screen, giving the bats more time to get in the way. The next screen does the same by putting one bat high enough to be out of the way, so a player might rush for the extra life only to be ambushed on the way back. The jump here is difficult, but Rush can be summoned on the other side of the gap, making it easy to bounce across.

mm4drill_03

This area combines Taketento with more spiked gaps. The spikes on the ceiling are a nice touch, as Mega Man can only reach the first few but they might make the player wary of jumping too high, making the gaps harder for themselves. A couple Taketentos also appear at the perfect height for sliding under, since they move upward after losing the propeller. They can be shot easily enough, but it's always good to have multiple options.

The last screen shows Pakatto 24, which is invulnerable until it raises its shield to fire. It's only vulnerable for a couple frames, and I always get held up here trying to hit them. The idea is fine, but the window is unnecessarily short.

mm4drill_04

Mono Roader is a good design for an enemy that appears by itself. It moves forward for a moment, giving us a chance to shoot at it (it takes three hits) before it closes up, moves forward and stops for a second, then moves back. It will continue charging us in this way as long as Mega Man is within a certain distance. Their unexpected movement can give players trouble, and they're difficult to get rid of once they start attacking. The best options are to take them out immediately or jump over them when they attack and keep moving. The terrain here complements them well.

mm4drill_05

The two dangers in the final area are rocks that drop from the tubes above when we get close, and Helipon who flies around slowly for a while before dropping. He starts shooting after hitting the ground, but since he dies in one hit this shouldn't happen often. However, he often appears out of our reach initially, which might give them a chance to shoot when an impatient player runs under one and then gets held up by the rocks.

Rocks explode when hitting the ground and a new one appears if we try to run forward after dodging the pieces, so our options are to shoot the rock itself, shoot the large piece that moves upward and jump, or slide just before triggering the rock. They're more awkward than one would expect. When they fall, the whole sprite appears under the tube instead of falling from behind it, so there's no warning and little time to hit them.

mm4drill_06 mm4drill_07

Once the player gets a feel for those, the last new thing is the stage are these switches. Sections of the floor will be missing, and touching these makes them appear. After the first, we'll have to jump from the ledges and hit switches on the way down to give us something to land on. There was some potential here for making the player perform awkward jumps to hit these in midair, but they're pretty big and difficult to miss, so they serve more as a neat visual trick than a true obstacle.

mm4drill_08Despite lacking the sorts of stage gimmicks we've come to expect, the first half makes good use of the enemies it has. It's simple, but it's designed well. Pakatto is a little sloppy, but the rocks are what really drag this stage down. They take up over a third of it and while they're fun to run through once you get the slide timing down, most players are going to have to shoot them to get by. Since they appear below the pipe and fall so quickly, players can easily get stuck shooting at them for a while before getting through. Their behavior is also unintuitive, to the point that I spent some time playing with them to figure out what's going on.

As it turns out, crossing the line that makes them fall does put them on a timer, a slow one in fact, but the line is right about where the pieces reach so players will likely move back over it to dodge them. Crossing it a second time causes another rock to fall, which is why backing up and trying to jump after the explosion will always fail. However, shooting the upper piece or standing right on the line and avoiding them gives us enough time to move under the pipe. It's a weird setup and there's no reason to do this or expect players to understand it. Had they handled this area well (just letting the rocks stick to their timing instead of allowing them to be reset would have been enough) it would have been a great (if simple) stage, but the rocks and the fact that they didn't do anything interesting with the switches end it on a sour note.