I got Full Bore as part of some bundle or other, and to be honest I wasn't really all that psyched to own it. From the images and video provided, it looked boring. Okay, you're a boar and you dig. Great
I'm more than pleased to report that Full Bore may have honestly been the best game I received in that bundle.
Full Bore is a game that is both cute and dark. You have boars who are also miners and say cute boar miner things and are named things like Hamm. You also have experimentation, possession, and sacrifice. The dark stuff never gets overly
dark, though, and the worst bits are described in historical texts and frozen computer monitors, and never in any horrific detail.
The game begins with Hildi or Frederick (your choice) slumbering in a meadow. After chasing some butterflies into a minefield, they are blown up and fall many, many stories below ground. They are then revived by some strange technology, and spend some time getting acquainted with the controls and bashing their head into things. Then they're launched in a rocket, through the bottom of a vault.
Your preferred swine arrives just after some mysterious masked boar runs off, leaving you behind to take the blame for the vault's missing contents. Turns out, this vault belongs to the owner of the Full Bore mining company, and he's not about to let you off the hook with his riches vanished. You're pushed into another pit and sent off to recover the gem hoard.
There are two main aspects of this game: puzzle solving and exploration. If you're a fan of both, then this may be the game for you! Puzzles tend to consist primarily of the destruction and manipulation of blocks. All sorts of blocks. Dirt, sand, crates, levitating, weird colored blocks that all phase in or out of existence if you destroy any one of them... Gems are found inside blocks, and puzzles often revolve around finding ways to reach these gem blocks, and finding ways to destroy
the gem blocks. Discovering and reaching doors is another huge part, as you'll have to first get to the rooms containing the gems. And you'll find that there are more than a few mysterious secrets buried beneath the world's crust.
The puzzle difficulty varies as you go. Obviously the general difficulty raises some as you get further, but you'll find puzzles of all difficulties throughout. It's understandable if you get stuck and look up some help, though this is definitely the type of game where it helps to step away for a few hours, or overnight. As you delve further, it's natural to start burning out after several rooms. I had numerous occasions where I just couldn't find any possible solution, then came back the next day and solved it in seconds.
Different areas have different gimmicks to their puzzles. The toughest area of the game is filled almost entirely with things that will break as you step off of them, leading to some very unique challenges. It's honestly pretty impressive how much variety this game's puzzles contain, considering that everything is just digging and pushing and stomping.
There's a nice, rewarding feeling when you accomplish something, too. Even a simpler challenge leaves you pretty proud of yourself. Collecting a gem and seeing your PigBoar Color's gem counter tick up one is great, but honestly most everything you do gives you a satisfying feeling of progress. Part of this is due to the obviously Fez-inspired map system, which tells you if there are any gems, doors, lore, or mysteries left in any given room. As you collect gems, they'll stack up, 1:1, in the previously emptied vault. Lore fills in the pieces of the plot, if you're into that. The mysteries... do what they do. And often, when you do some puzzling to reach a new door, upon your return you'll find that the room has undergone a subtle change to facilitate future passage to the door. Scaffolding will appear, dirt will disappear, crates will shift, all because the devs understood that nobody wants to have to solve that darn thing again in order to get back to a room that they had difficulty with the first time.
I mentioned Fez, there. The game has a few inspirations that aren't entirely obvious, at first. I am full-on bragging when I say that I noticed these three early on into the game. The first thing I noticed was a bit of a Metroid-esque feel (but without the upgrades), along with those Prime-style digital and ancient lore logs. Then the very clear Fez map and the pool puzzles (bonus points for the fox/dog that occupies the room where you learn how those work) and a certain room named "Vision" (which I actually think is slightly cleverer than Fez's counterpart). And I was thinking it was probably because I'd just recently replayed Escape Goat, but the game reminded me of that at times, as well. Lo and behold, then, when I stumbled upon direct references to each of the above! So if you're a fan of those three games/series, then once again, this may be the game for you!
There are a few endgame-type-deals which will drop you back to the title screen. You can always continue your game after these, picking up after your credit-causing conquests. You should never find yourself in a position where 100% is impossible.
I know it's a puzzle game, but there are times where you'll need to be quick. It never asks the impossible, but you will be thankful for the rewind feature when you find yourself racing the character you didn't pick at the beginning, or desperately running from exploding purple... stuff. Or fighting the final/only boss
, which is tricky in its first part, rough in its second, and downright tedious and not very fun at all in its last.
I understand if the visuals don't appeal to you right off the bat, but you'll enjoy them more and more as you go. The lighting is done well, and the game can be rather pretty when it wants to. The soundtrack is cool, too, providing something to dig on while you dig on. Lots of distorted guitars laying down fitting grooves to keep you focused and immersed.
If I have to come up with a complaint that nagged at me over the course of the game, it's the camera. Generally it's centered on you, but you can also use the right analog stick (assuming you're using a controller) to look around. I assume this is just remapped keyboard keys, though, as the camera does not register the sensitivity of your tilt. This means that you can't just move the camera slightly to view an entire puzzle. The camera will shift as far as it can - up to something like a full screen's length away - and sit there. If I'm trying to see at a distance, that's fine. But when I want a better look at the puzzle I'm working on, I have to keep shifting the camera up and back and up and back instead of just looking slightly up and taking it all in. Also, on a few occasions the camera just wigged out on me. It didn't happen often, but on the few occasions that it did, it could be pretty screwy on the eyes.
I really, really enjoyed Full Bore. Far more than I ever expected to. It has good design, enjoyable writing, and most of all it has heart. It's not stuffed with references, but there are a small handful, along with bits of inspiration seeped in from strong sources and in all the right ways. Plus, wow, I got around 20+ hours out of this, and I didn't get tired of the game once through all that (okay, maybe a little bit in the Scrapyard). That's excellent for a block-manipulation indie puzzle game. If all that sounds as delightful to you as it does to me, then this is definitely the game for you.
I'll leave you with one piece of closing wisdom: remember that, in that moment before a block falls, when it's hovering Wile E. Coyote-style in the air, you can actually hop onto it and use it as a platform. Knowing this ahead of time would have spared me one big headache.