Taking Metroid to the Blue Collar Mines in Full Bore
The World's #1 Boar Digging Simulator
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Full Bore is a paradox wrapped inside a mystery. The game is a puzzle platformer, but you can't jump; it's designed in the Metroidvania style, but you don't collect a single power-up; and all its pixelated inhabitants look adorable at first, but look again and you'll see they're actually quite terrifying.
When I started this game it seemed innocent enough: a young boar falls victim to circumstance and is drafted into the Full Bore Mining Co. However, the deeper I dug into the mines, the stranger things became. The somber, blues-inspired soundtrack coupled with some striking lighting effects left me questioning if everything in this already bizarre world wasn't exactly how it appeared. Full Bore's developers--Whole Hog Games--were quick to assure me it's not.
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Let's back up a second. Beyond the game's psychedelic aesthetic, Full Bore is also a tale of hard workin' blue-collar boars that spend their days pushin' boxes, diggin' holes, and solvin' puzzles. Okay, maybe I was the only one solving any puzzles, but you get the point. Since jumping was not in my arsenal, I instead had to climb up and over obstacles. This gave certain areas a Catherine-esque vibe as I puzzled out how to build a stairway to my goal. Thankfully, if I got stuck in Full Bore I could zap back to the last checkpoint, or try a different area.
The world of Full Bore is huge, with numerous passages you can miss or skip entirely. This game is the equivalent to starting Symphony of the Night with a fully-upgraded Alucard: all your abilities are unlocked from the get-go, the challenge lies in discovering their nuances and recognizing where they can be applied. An experienced player could use this knowledge to breeze past certain areas, but, for a newcomer like myself, I was content to take it slow and let the game teach me how this world works.
To wit, the first time I saw a laser block buried in the ground I ran right past it without a second thought. Later on, after the game taught me how laser blocks worked, I caught myself thinking, "Now where have I seen that block before?" As the developers explained, curiosity is at the heart of Full Bore's design. The game is filled with hidden collectables, bits of lore, and challenging puzzle rooms for sharp players to discover. The game does not force all these extras upon you; if you seek them out that's great, and if you accidentally stumble upon one, so much the better.
The team behind Full Bore consists of a trio of high school friends turned game developers. Casey Carlin, Finn Beazlie, and Jake Federico have taken Full Bore though many different versions, including a procedurally-generated, match-three puzzle game. "We kept trying to make that work," said Carlin. "We had a cheesy prototype and people seemed to have fun breaking stuff and digging giant holes, but that was basically all it was. We weren't able to coalesce that feeling of fun into an actual game."
Getting Full Bore to the state it's in today hasn't been the easiest journey for this team, who were all candid about the unexpected realities of game development. "No matter what anyone tells you about how hard it is to make a video game," explained Federico, "they will not have scope and amount of work involved." Carlin mirrored this sentiment, "You're basically doing R&D on a moving target, which is quite possibly the most difficult thing you could try to do in engineering. But with video games, you're engineering a project while also composing a sonnet or shooting a movie--and those two fields have to work and interact! It's maddeningly complicated and none of us had enough experience to deal with that right away."
One of the greatest sources of inspiration actually came from the game's soundtrack, which took the team by surprise. "I told this guy, Miguel Acuña, who I've known for a long time, the basic premise for the game and that we were looking for some classic chiptunes mixed with his own personal flair," Beazlie explained, "and the first song he sent back was this amazing blend of blues guitar and bleep-bloops. It fit a style we didn't even know we were going for."
"That music helped push the story into the blue collar style it has now," added Carlin. "Of course, that story goes to a strange place the further you get into the game, but the early areas where you're roped into working for the mining company and getting in deep with the working boars, I mean, hearing that music, how could we NOT go in that direction?"
From simple to strange, Full Bore covers a lot of ground, which has led this team to their latest quandary: how much is too much? "It goes back to the game's theme: curiosity," Beazlie said. "We're really curiosity focused, and if you want to drive curiosity you can't tell everyone everything--you have to leave some questions unanswered and be cryptic. We're trying to decide what's the balance between information and mysteriousness." Full Bore is aiming for release later this year, with the possibility of a Steam release through Greenlight.