Review: Full Bore

Curiosity can be a powerful motivator in games. Once piqued, the player requires little encouragement, as the mystery provides the motivation. It then becomes a balancing act. Enough must be revealed to continue to entice the player, but not so much that they become satisfied. Full Bore, an Exploration/Puzzle game from indie studio Whole Hog Games, manages this skillfully, challenging the player to uncover the truth, one piece at a time. The slow discovery of the truth behind the world of Full Bore is half the fun, so this review will be Spoiler-free.

Full Bore has a deceptively simple premise: The player is a blue collar boar, working in a mine to pay off their debt. The boar is not anthropomorphic, it is not magical. Other than the abilities to dig very fast and fall without injury, the boar seems fairly unremarkable. Not long after the player goes below ground it becomes apparent that there is much more to this “mine”. The player will stumble upon ruins of dead civilizations, marvels of technology and mysticism, and enigmatic texts left behind by the original inhabitants of these structures.

The player’s co-workers are, for the most part, disinterested in these sections of the mines. One of Full Bore’s greatest strengths is the freedom that it offers the player. While there is a main story, in between objectives the player is free to explore and pursue the aspects of the game that appeal to them. Explorers have a vast subterranean world to chart. Players driven by challenge can seek out increasingly difficult puzzles (There’s even an area called “Yeah, these puzzles are hard…”). Lore hounds are free to scour the tunnels for texts and characters that give insight into the mysteries of the world.

1

Within a few minutes of starting the game, the player will learn all of the boar’s abilities. The boar can tunnel, slam downwards, and rewind time. The boar cannot jump, but it can climb diagonally. While the player has a relatively simple set of tools, the environments that they are applied to vary widely. The player must learn to navigate and utilize battery blocks, lasers, explosive ore, crumbling scaffolds and many more objects. This shifts the focus from the character to the environment.

The player knows exactly what they are capable of and must experiment with each new environment to learn how best to manipulate it. The boar’s fairly limited range of motion makes it clear what is and what is not a solution, eliminating frustrating guesswork. While the player is solving puzzles they are treated to Full Bore’s pixel art and soundtrack.

The 16-bit art skillfully captures the personality of each environment. Despite the majority of the game taking place underground, environments rarely feel repetitive. One aspect stands out in particular, the light. While you do not rely on light sources, Full Bore takes great pains to depict lighting. The result is that the player is never able to forget that they are deep underground.

Additionally, different light sources add another dimension to each environment. The flickering light from candles in a temple sets a dramatically different mood than the dull glow of lights in an abandoned laboratory. The other half of the game’s tone comes from its soundtrack. The blues inspired music also changes based on the environment. A slow tune that evokes feelings hard work can change to a frantic track when you are racing to avoid being crushed by falling debris.

2

Full Bore is a well-crafted puzzle game that adds an intriguing exploration twist. Most puzzles are challenging without feeling punishing and the ability to choose which puzzles to solve removes a great deal of frustration. The story running throughout the game is fascinating and well told. The player is given fragments and enough is left to the imagination to keep the player hooked from start to finish. The game takes tried and true mechanics, combines them with its own twists and offers the player a thoroughly non-traditional protagonist. All of this comes together to create a unique, entertaining experience, with enough content to keep players coming back.

score8Title: Full Bore
Developer: Whole Hog Games
Rating: Unrated by ESRB
Release Date: May 6th, 2014
Platforms Available: PC
Platformed Reviewed: PC
Game provided for review