By Phil Schipper / June 5th, 2014
|Developer||Whole Hog Games|
|Publisher||Nkidu Games Inc.|
|Release Date||May 6, 2014|
Full Bore. I can honestly say, when I first saw this game, I had no idea what to expect out of it. None of the descriptions seemed to clear anything up. A “physics puzzler” that’s all about exploring and digging around as a boar? It didn’t quite make sense–until I actually started playing.
The game opens to one of two characters snoozing away. There’s only one thing to do: chase that butterfly! But before you know it, you’re standing on a minefield, and you inevitably plummet through the ground and down past dozens of screens worth of mines. Eventually, a strange machine zaps you awake, and it’s time to get digging. You’ll learn quickly that there is no jumping in this game. Instead, your boar can only climb diagonally up slopes of blocks. In addition, you have the ability to stomp, which affects the block you’re standing on and makes really weak blocks disappear in a radius around you.
The coolest thing you learn to do in the first couple minutes, though, is to rewind time. The game saves a certain number of steps in your history (usually means pushing or breaking a block, or falling a long way) and, if your mistake was further back, you can always skip all the way back to the last checkpoint or the room’s entrance. This prevents you from ever being completely stuck, although you might feel that you still are when the going gets tough. Even if you fall into a bottomless pit, instead of giving a Game Over, it simply prompts you to rewind back to a safe point in time.
After a little bit of tutorial, you’ll stumble upon what looks like a classic space shuttle. Upon getting inside, you’ll find that it immediately starts to launch. Great, we’re going to space! …Right? Well, not exactly. The rocket is quite old, and, since then, a group of sentient boars like yourself has built a mining operation nearby. As it happens, you crash directly into their vault, sending their precious Gems scattering everywhere. The president of the company immediately assumes that you somehow stole them, so his idea is to make you work in the mines until you make up for it.
The Gems are a nice way to lure you into different puzzles, scattered around the open world. Digging through the dozens of different types of blocks, pushing certain ones around and waiting for others to fall, you’ll find many different mechanics. Learning to manage them and combine them in unique ways is the key to finding things. In fact, while many puzzles do have a very visible, shiny Gem at the end, others just lead to doors and the like–and you don’t know whether those doors lead to shrines, more Gems or towards your next objective.
There are very few of said objectives, and in fact, quite often, you won’t know what they are. For the most part, though, there’s only one item you need to get in order to continue on, and after that, it’s a matter of making your way towards the area where the game ends. There are no switches or keys in the world of Full Bore–if you can figure out how to climb there, you can go there. This means that if you aren’t interested in collectibles, the Gems actually mean nothing. In a way this gives you a choice between full exploration and just making a mad dash through the storyline–except that you rarely have any idea where the storyline is. It’s both freeing and confusing at the same time.
Early in the game, puzzles are just an easy, five-second distraction that lets you get a quick Gem while you’re out and about. But the farther you get in the game, the more you might find yourself asking if they’re really worth it. After all, even the puzzles that are required to continue can be very difficult. Just when you think you’ve moved the block you need, you realize you needed it to get back up somewhere. Every simple move will have you questioning and rewinding over and over. By the end, I found myself spending over half an hour just trying to work out one room without ruining everything. Although there are no actual barriers to progressing besides the puzzles, sometimes it feels like one is simply too hard for now and will have to be done later.
I wish I could try to give you an idea of Full Bore’s size, but it all depends on how committed you are to getting things done in it. In order to get this review done, I found myself cutting corners as far as Gems were concerned, and making my way as far into the dark, twisted depths of this game as I could. The result was about 16 recorded hours of gameplay, though I probably spent many more outside the game just pondering certain rooms. All things considered, the parts I didn’t complete are probably much more difficult than the ones I did, if that’s even possible. So, in reality, you’re probably looking at far more brainteasing fun than that–or not, if you work things out much more easily than I did. (If you’re thinking about using a guide, don’t bother–the community around this game seems to have too much respect for it to give others much more than cryptic hints. Crazy or cool?)
There isn’t a huge pool of sound and music from which the game draws, but what it does use is effective. Most of the songs are simple, calm guitar lines that don’t try anything fancy. Things like this song give subtle hints at the underground mining atmosphere, while staying out of the way to let you think. You definitely need that.
Full Bore’s approach of not using powerups or other devices to restrict the player, as well as its brilliant puzzle design, set it apart from the rest of the pack. On the other hand, the absolute lack of direction in most cases can be frustrating. It’s definitely geared towards people who want to take a nice stroll through a game while stretching their brains to the fullest. It can be a mixed bag at times, but, in the end, the good qualities do certainly outweigh the bad. If you’re ready to get digging, grab Full Bore on Steam for $14.99.
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