Full Bore
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

Full Bore is a sprawling adventure with plenty of puzzle based challenges to tackle while you are exploring. Apart from a few rare instances you are not racing against a clock or facing any type of enemies so you can progress at your own pace. Some players may find the experience too sedate while others will be hooked by the fascinating gameworld and tricky puzzles.

Gameplay: A block based puzzler with some very clever challenges.

Graphics: Lovely pixel art with some great animations and lighting effects.

Sound: An excellent glitch/blues soundtrack rounds off the package

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Full Bore

Developer: Whole Hog Games | Publisher: Nikidu Games Inc. |Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Adventure / Casual / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

During some digging the protagonists of Full Bore, a boar named Frederick or a sow named Hildi, stumbled into the vault of a mining company. After being accused of pilfering the contents of the vault your boar is summarily dispatched to the mines to pay for their alleged crimes. While digging around in the mines of the Full Bore Mining Company your boar uncovers a much bigger mystery and so your real adventure begins.

When I first started playing Full Bore I was expecting something along the lines of Steamworld Dig or Super Motherload where the aim of the game is digging and upgrading your character. I soon discovered that Full Bore has much more in common with games like Fez and that digging is just a tool for solving the multitude of block puzzles that you encounter. Full Bore is an open world game with a heavy focus on exploration and usually it is just your own inability to solve puzzles that will halt your progress in a certain direction. Thankfully, each area usually has multiple secrets and hidden rooms so if you find yourself stuck somewhere you can usually just pick a new direction and go exploring somewhere else.

Initially this kind of freedom is a little overwhelming, especially once you realize that while the game might feel like a Metroid-vania title you do not unlock new skills that open up new areas. Instead your boar has all the skills it needs right off the bat. While you can dig for gems it is not really required to complete the game so unless the puzzle solving really grabs your fancy the game can feel a bit aimless. The exploration element is a lot of fun though, and when you start to discover the computers, logs and books that explain the backstory of the game it is hard not to become hooked.

The game was initially released as Full Bore: The First Dig, but this Steam release completes the package with “Into Hard Earth” which is the second half of the game. In total there are over a hundred areas to explore which is a bit daunting, but the fact that you can explore at your own pace and rarely encounter any conflict certainly helps. You have a very large map that you can call up which aids in charting your progress and is very helpful for showing you which areas you have already cleared. The things left to do in an area such as gems, secrets or doorways are also marked on the map which can really help to cut down the aimless wandering.

Initially as you make your way through the mines, temples, scrapyards and laboratories you will more than likely stroll past a few puzzles without even realizing that you can solve them. Your boar can only dig through certain blocks or push them around which is all you need to solve the puzzles. You also have a stomp move which can be used to knock down certain blocks, but it takes a while to get used to the absence of a jump button. I lost count of the amount of times I was left furrow browed trying to figure out a block based solution to an obstacle that would only have taken a small jump to clear. You can’t control the direction of your boar while falling either, so expect to go plummeting straight down if you drop down a gap. Luckily what your boar lacks in jumping ability it makes up for in resilience as it won’t die from a fall no matter the height.

Because all the puzzles are block based you will inevitably mess things up at some point and end up with a puzzle that can’t be solved. Fortunately, your boar has the uncanny ability to rewind time so you can just skip back to a point before you made a fatal mistake. This definitely cuts down on the frustration and means you have nobody to blame when you can’t solve a puzzle. Figuring out how to manipulate the blocks is very rewarding and once you are hooked you will find yourself actively seeking out puzzles that you skipped earlier in the game.

The game uses a very nice pixel art style for the visuals that manages to hit all the nostalgia buttons for players that grew up with 16-bit games. Some awesome lighting effects and brilliant animations ensure that the game doesn’t appear dated though. The soundtrack is made up of glitch/blues tunes which are quite fitting and certainly very memorable. I still have the theme tune to the game stuck in my head and I suspect it will remain there for quite some time. One aspect of the game that requires a little practice is the controls, which take some getting used to. I constantly found myself trying to jump across gaps and until you get used to the way your boar handles the controls can feel a bit cumbersome. Once mastered there is no looking back, but there is definitely an initial learning curve.

Full Bore is a game that you can just blitz through, but doing so will mean that you miss out on all the clever puzzles and interesting backstory elements. This is a game where you have to take your time (except when in a race against a giant drill heading for explosive blocks) and really soak in the atmosphere. There is a lot more going on than you might guess from the whimsical visuals and it will certainly give puzzle fans a decent mental workout. Not everyone enjoys block based puzzles, but Full Bore is certainly one of the more interesting not to mention challenging entries in the genre. If this game manages to suck you in be prepared to spend some serious time down in the dirt uncovering all its secrets.

*Review originally published May 2014.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz
  • Memory: 500 MB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce 7600 or equivalent
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
  • OS: Windows 7 or later
  • Processor: 2.4 GHz
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce 240 or equivalent
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
  • OS: Ubuntu 12.04 or later
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz
  • Memory: 500 MB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce 7600 or equivalent
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
  • OS: Ubuntu 12.04 or later
  • Processor: 2.4 GHz
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce 240 or equivalent
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space

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