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Full Bore Preview: So Far, We Dig It
More people should be talking about Whole Hog Game’s upcoming Full Bore. It’s an exploration driven puzzle game about a mining company run by a community of boars, so we’re already off to a good start, but it’s also got a great atmosphere, some great puzzles and a genuine sense of adventure. You play as one of two small boars, Frederick and Hildi, who plummet deep underground after wandering into a minefield, then take a rocket to a mining community of sentient boars. The rocket drains the mining boss’s vault of gems, and your little boar is forced to work off the debt.
Your boar moves on a 2D plane, but can freely dig through a good chunk of the level. Figuring out how each kind of material works is satisfying, and learning to manipulate the earth is empowering. The slower paced puzzle solving is broken up by action sequences, like races and boss battles, that are genuinely satisfying to complete. A limited undo function keeps any necessary trial and error from bogging down the pace, and an excellent map system keeps backtracking to a minimum. The collectable gems mean that puzzles can be hidden everywhere, but there’s far more than jewels hidden in this world. Marathon style computer terminals give some vague backstory, and hidden puzzles off to the side offer even stranger goodies. I was only able to play a little farther than Full Bore’s first act in my preview build, so I was unable to find the purpose of many of these collectibles, but finding mysterious artifacts in far corners of this world is intriguing and addictive.
Whenever I play Full Bore, I think of the first time I played Mario 64. I was very young then, and video games weren’t something I finished, nor were they something constructed for me to finish, but were worlds filled with new discoveries. I ran cluelessly around the first level for a while, until a friend showed me that I could jump through paintings, and a hole I could backflip to for a quick 1-up mushroom. I went to his house for a sleepover, and when his father loaded up his file, it was an entirely new world behind a door I thought would stay locked forever, one filled with pools of shimmering metal and hidden switches to change the overworld itself. There was a world inside that castle that I felt I could never reach, only marvel at.
Mario 64 is, of course, a collection of linear challenges, and though I now appreciate it as a monumentally entertaining platformer, its wonders are something I can pin down. Full Bore is different. It feels massive, more massive, I’m sure, than it actually is. Four hours in and after completing the first of two planned acts, I still find rooms that seem to have hidden, unknowable purposes, and solving the mysteries of how the world work is so closely connected with progression that world that uncovering the foreboding strangeness of the world becomes your main method of exploring it.
Puzzle games tend to use the language of discovery in extremely linear settings. Deadly Rooms of Death is a huge fantasy world funneled through instanced, completely deterministic rooms, while Chuck’s Challenge is simply a collection of separate puzzles, like a book of crosswords, with the full possibilities of the world staying forever irrelevant to earlier levels. Full Bore frees that language by using it for the purpose of exploration. Every time I ran into a wall I would be forced to consider that there was some solution I had missed, leading to a new secret, or that I would be able to enter the room from a different door later on, causing some subtle difference in how I could approach the puzzle, allowing me to proceed.
Full Bore is a great surprise: a game that seamlessly blends complex puzzle solving, engaging exploration and secret-driven storytelling. You can play the preview build, which includes Act 1 and a short preview of Act 2, for $8 with full access to the rest when it is finished. Full Bore does not currently have a release date, but we’ll be back with out full review whenever that may be.