I had first heard about Full Bore through it’s successful Kickstarter campaign. The low dollar amount plus its developer, who cut his teeth with Arc System Works, really turned this into one of those titles to watch coming down the pipeline. Well the pipeline is here and we get to see what this small team of three could turn out.
To be honest, I had initial concerns with whether or not splitting a game in two would yield something satisfying. Fortunately Full Bore isn’t boring.
Full Bore is the story of a simple boar who inadvertently finds itself exploring the cavernous depths of a mining company after his joy ride on a rocket proceeds to crash through the vault of an overbearing mining boss hog. This vault destruction indentures the poor boar to perform recovery of the numerous jewels that were supposed to be encased inside. Our protagonist then has to tunnel through the mineshaft to recover each gem and find the mysteries that lie inside.
The characters and setting certainly are unique (and that’s not even accounting for when it gets a bit bizarre). What really sets the game apart though is the appearance. This is a pixel based affair with a developer that wants to make a complete world for these characters. The setting is a deep dank mine which should be pretty limited in options, but the developers try to open the game up about half way through and really make it a bit weird in an interesting way.
The pixel art is at a level that you should expect most games in this age to be. Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case so I’d have to say this is a step above. The detail in character animations is truly rewarding. These characters have a succinct personality in appearance that is often overlooked these days. Just to see this boar curl up underneath the weight of a block adds something a bit more to the game that only serves to change one thing: how you project on to this protagonist.
Of course this is a game and it does involve gameplay. The developers have stated that their inspirations were Mr. Driller and Metroid, and to be honest I have to say that is as good a comparison as you can get. The game tasks you with breaking blocks, digging dirt and shuffling things around as you explore a maze full of intricate puzzles. As a boar you have no vertical attributes which means no jumping for you. You’ll have to climb diagonally or drop through the floorboards to get anywhere in this game.
Full Bore has been set up to accommodate this by transforming the world in to one big puzzle for you to maneuver. Rooms are intricately designed to frustrate you at every turn. This is a puzzle-platformer with a strong focus on using the platforms as your puzzle. Plenty of tricky scenarios await and the only mechanics our boar hero has are digging and moving. Many of the blocks you see above are destructible, movable or some variation of the two, so with a world composed of puzzle pieces, it really is a bit fun to explore.
More interesting though are the sprinkling of missions involving finesse. A few times in the game, you’ll be tasked with trying to reach the bottom to beat other hogs. This is where the game gets interesting, and showcases a major flaw. The controls in Full Bore commit too much to forward progression.
This is an issue you can adjust to, but it is tedious still. This is because the game is built on a momentum system that still needs tweaking. When you begin plowing through piles of dirt with the boar, it picks up steam. So while breaking the first block might take a few seconds, by the fifth, you should be plowing forward.
This momentum is a catch-22, because when you aren’t like this and you are just trying to head to your destination, you need to focus on not over or under compensating. Moving to a ledge requires you to overcompensate to jump off. Running towards a block you want to climb up forces you to undercompensate. It isn’t a big concern until you decide to race those other boars like I talked about. Then it gets a bit maddening as you try and settle into the proper technique. Overcompensating just happens, and it can really reset an event for you. Fortunately, you can kill yourself at the touch of a button, so you have that going for you when you mess up. I’ve played this on a fight stick, d-pad and regular “WASD” controls, and grew frustrated with each.
Full Bore is a great idea stuck in its beginning stages. With a sequel on its way sometime before years end, by the time you end the game you can see the developer has much more in store. In the meantime, there is plenty to do with about 7-8 hours of gameplay and the puzzles are quite good with blocks and stages that shift with the players interaction.
Of course like all Metroidvania style games, what you get out of it is what you wish to explore. Whole Hog Games wanted to breathe some mystery inside of Full Bore and it’ll be interesting to see where the game heads to in the second episode.
[+Neat Spritework] [+Tricky Puzzles] [+Interesting Atmosphere] [-Wonky Character Movement]