Full Bore is a prime example of looks being deceiving. From this puzzle platformer’s promotional materials it’s impossible to see both its unique mechanics and how incredibly challenging it is.
Its premise is simple – you play as a hapless boar roped into recovering a mine owner’s gem stones from subterranean depths. However, even the story quickly evolves beyond a basic framing device as you slowly unravel an intriguing underlying plot similar to the likes of Fez.
Probably the first thing you’ll notice though is how atypical Full Bore‘s game play is. Its main quirk is that there is no jump mechanic whatsoever which is a completely alien concept to any one who has ever played a 2D platformer. The most your porky avatar can do is vault up immediately adjacent single-stack blocks. Thus, even medium height platforms and single space gaps in the floor are impassable without additional assistant. As a result, simply traversing the environment becomes a challenge and thus a core element to the puzzle design.
Digging, pushing and stomping are your only other forms of interaction all of which are available to you right from the outset. There are no upgrades meaning that basically any given puzzle can be beaten immediately upon discovering them.
What really pushes Full Bore into a higher realm of complexity is its many different block types. Though initially you’ll be faced with only simple soil squares that can be dug through you’ll end up encountering blocks with pretty much every type of attribute you can imagine. These includes ones that collapse when stepped upon, fire destructive laser beams when placed next to batteries, explode when struck and even some that are only affected by your physical intervention rather than gravity.
The scope this affords the developer to create its puzzles is massive and Whole Hog Studios (being true to their name) fully capitalise on it. You rarely feel like you’re not being challenged or being made to do the same basic thing multiple times. The excellent time rewind mechanic means you’re free to experiment and reset without fear of getting yourself stuck or killed, so it keeps unnecessary frustration to a minimum.
However, perhaps the designers fulfilled the puzzle potential a little too well in spots as the later stages of the game are extremely challenging. I say this without exaggeration; Full Bore is one of the most brain-taxing titles I’ve ever encountered.
To give you some context on myself and other similar games, I consider myself fairly good at this sort of action-puzzle title. I’ve completed the Portal games, more analogous puzzle platformers like Fez and Braid, and I’m a massive fan of the The Legend of Zelda – a series known for its environmental and blocks puzzles.
With those experiences under my belt I can safely say that Full Bore is a league above your usual action-puzzle fare in terms of difficulty.
Rooms typically require multi-stage solutions to be beaten. As the game progresses these scenarios add increasingly more stages, blocks and concepts and – at least in my estimation – beyond a point it becomes a bit too much. Rooms in the last fifth of the game end up looking so large, complex and tightly-packed it’s often unclear what your current goal even is.
Whole Hog Studios cites Metroid as one of their inspirations for the game but perhaps they could’ve borrowed a little more from Nintendo’s design philosophy for the Super Mario games in this respect. The really difficult puzzles could’ve been saved for the optional gem hunting, giving the majority of players a fighting chance of at least making it through the story critical challenges.
If they really wanted to stick to guns, another option would have been to include some kind of hint system. It didn’t have to be intrusive nor did it have to immediately tell the player exactly what needs to be done. Anything to help thoroughly stuck and frustrated players would have been better nothing.
In the age of online FAQs and videos guides you might argue that this might not be a problem for players. From a game design standpoint, I’d argue that this is significant issue as it’s never a good thing when players are forced to find resources outside of your game in order to beat the core experience.
The only other negative with Full Bore is that as a puzzle game there’s really not any replay value to it. Once you have a good grip on its concepts and have beaten every challenge you’ll not want to touch it again at least until it’s all faded from memory.
Finishing the story and collecting every single gem will likely take most players around ten hours if they don’t get stuck for any major length of time. Thankfully, the game’s priced accordingly at a fairly low asking price of £11.99 on Steam.
In short, Full Bore is probably too difficult to give a blanket recommendation. This is by no means a bad game though – on the contrary, this is one of the most unique and well-designed action puzzle titles out there, despite the unrelenting late-game difficulty. Should you be a fan of this sort of experience and looking for a thoroughly taxing time you should most definitely check it out – you’ll be in hog’s heaven.