Full Bore: The First Dig

I love the boar animations in Full Bore more than anything else in the game. Full Bore is a platforming, puzzle game that puts you in the role of a boar whose job it is to dig through blocks in order to find jewels and solve problems. The mechanics take some getting used to and the fidelity isn’t perfect but once you get digging there is a real sense of speed and control over your little boar. That being said, the animations! Seriously, the animations for that boar, for whatever reason, won me over right away. Of course, there is a great game behind those animations and one we should discuss further.

After picking your boar, either male or female, you’re sent exploring into the world. Once you find your way into a strange vault of sorts you realize that you’ve stumbled upon a mine that wants you to help dig. There’s a lot of work to be done and you’re just the boar to do it. In this world boars talk and they have a wonderfully dry and referential sense of humor. I don’t know why the boars talk, and I don’t try to ask either. Instead I just put my little tusks into the dirt and go digging. Using WASD or the arrow keys you move your boar around the world. This was the first part of Full Bore that felt like a complete love it or hate it moment. The controls are very specific to the platforming in Full Bore and take a little bit of time to get used to. Your boar doesn’t jump or fall via a separate jump button. Instead, s/he needs the use of the arrow keys, typically a side direction and the up arrow, to move in a diagonal way. This means if you want to go on a platform above you, you must be to the left and underneath said platform.

This same style goes for falling down a level as well as your boar will look over the ledge before falling. My biggest issue with these controls, until I got comfortable with them, is that they feel sluggish when your boar is being timed on a level. For instance, there was one level where I had to clear out certain blocks and do so in a very specific pattern. I must’ve died a dozen times before figuring it out and each time I felt as though I knew the pattern but couldn’t complete it because the boar was moving too slowly. Any puzzle-platformer needs to have crisp and precise controls in order to feel competent; Full Bore has these controls but they take a moment to sink in.

Once the controls are figured out you can begin to soak in the world of Full Bore. The style of this world is both unique and throw-back in nature. Everything has a pixel-like look to it but at the same time the characters have their own style and feel. Even though the game takes place underground, the game does a good job of varying up the landscapes and the looks of each level. There is also a strange background story going on under all the boar-filled chit chat that I’ll just leave alone for now. This strange story does vary up the world as well as there are secret chambers that are hard to reach but totally worth exploring.

Exploring, that’s the mechanic of Full Bore I didn’t expect. Most puzzle-platformer games give you a straight path to follow and let you loose upon it. There is a very clear goal for you to reach and a path or two to take in order to get there. Full Bore does the complete opposite and lets you explore wherever you’d like to right from the start. There are various doorways into various rooms that have crystals, events, and puzzles galore in each door. There’s no Metroid like mechanic to block your progress nor is there anything stopping you from going wherever you’d like. That sort of freedom and experiential learning makes the game-world feel fresh and invigorating rather than stale and plotting.

Accompanying you along your travels is a wonderful soundtrack that really sets the world alive in its own way. It’s a great blues-esque soundtrack that gives the world of Full Bore a unique vibe and adds to the characters. No longer are these just boars, mining for their livelihood and wanting to work their nine to five. No, these are depressed, working boars who want to slog back a drink and please their boss so that maybe, just maybe, they can get a day off. At least…that’s what I felt.

I’d be remised if I didn’t talk a little about those damn animations. I know this seems like a strange thing to harp on but they’re just so great. Every time your boar drives his or her head into a block it can’t break its eyes widen, it thrusts towards the block, and it bumps its head into the block. The resulting “clunk” noise that echoes from its impact got me every time. The same thing goes for the animation of the boar when it looks over a ledge and its eyes widen with fear before it falls. Being able to place that human emotion into a pixilated boar is really something special and satisfying. Think of Toothless the dragon from How to Train Your Dragon in boar form, kind of.

Once you get past the odd control timing I think anyone can really enjoy Full Bore. The world feels unique and fresh while the gameplay feels familiar enough to be comfortable, but different enough to feel innovative. While some parts of the game can be frustrating, it always gives you a close by checkpoint to make sure your progress is never truly lost. Besides, once you get into the game and see that little boar banging its head against an unbreakable block you’ll fall in love and want to see where this little boar is going to go.