At first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Full Bore has more in common with the likes of Terraria and Steamworld Dig than anything else. After all, here's another platform-heavy game with blocky pixels inviting you to explore labyrinthine, subterranean caverns and clear out rocks. But you'd be wrong. Full Bore flatters to deceive as a traditional platformer -- it doesn't even have a jump button -- and the focus here is firmly on puzzle solving rather than exploration or crafting. In many ways, Full Bore comes across as a Metroidvania title, with tusks.
Full Bore: Part One - The First Dig released last year, showcasing an open, non-linear environment that saw players tackling an array of block puzzles that became increasingly more fiendish. Full Bore isn't a game that sees you progressing in terms of capabilities as you move throughout the game, but rather lays everything out early on and then challenges your grasp of the game's various mechanisms with puzzles that become more intricate and fiendish.
The joy of the open nature of the game means that there's actually little frustration to be found in Full Bore. Rather early on you discover that you're actually part of a mining operation, and the vaults been blown wide open, scattering valuable gems and precious stones across the mine. This provides a nice little conceit for having you collect precious stones in certain puzzle rooms, but often you'll find that rooms have more than one entrance, and you'll have to go off and do a bit of exploring in order to collect everything.
The boars can dig their way through loose rock, dirt and sand, but players will often find that going in "full bore" is unwise, as most puzzles require careful manipulation of the environment in order to reach certain areas, and sometimes you might need that sand stack you just demolished in order to reach a platform further up. Timing is key as well, particularly when it comes to falling blocks and standing on loose earth that can give way beneath your weight. Thankfully, though the game isn't punitive when it comes to the over-zealous, and there's a handy rewind button that allows players to take the action back in incremental steps or just reset the room to the last checkpoint you passed.
It's a well put together little game, one that comes with a lovely, lilting, bluesy soundtrack, and everything is wonderfully designed. If there is one point that's certainly likely to prove divisive, it's the "boss battle" of sorts that sees you trying to clear out explosive blocks that happen to be in the path of an enormous drill that's out of control. Instead of allowing you to survey a room and work out the best path to reach the gems or the terminals that dish out slices of narrative lore, the race against the drill ratchets up the pace and sets you against a time limit. I didn't have too much of a problem with after dying several times and using the paused rewind screen to buy myself some puzzle time, but it kind of flies against everything that's happened up to that point.
There's not really an enormous amount of impetus either. The gems themselves don't serve much of a purpose, I can't say that I found the bitty story and background narrative context that you pick up via underground terminals to be particularly interesting, and quite often I simply found myself playing through the game just because it was there and I felt I ought to get to the end. It's testament to the strength of level design and the well-worked mechanics that the game is actually just a pleasure to play, but some might find the lack of real reason to solve many of the puzzles a little disappointing.
The puzzles themselves, though, are pretty engrossing, and Full Bore certainly got its tusks into me. The second part of the game, out later this spring, adds further elements to the puzzling, with colour-coded switches and disappearing platforms to take into consideration. We got a little taste of what to expect from the next chapter in this porcine adventure, and you can check out a whole bunch of footage in the playthrough video from part two just below.