Note: This review was written in cooperation with Future Sack editor Annagram.
Double Fine Productions had quite some success with Grim Fandango: Remastered and Day of the Tentacle: Remastered, but does the more serious and action-heavy adventure game Full Throttle: Remastered make the original LucasArts adventure of 1995 relevant again?
Full Throttle: Remastered (PC)
(USA 2017, developer/publisher: Double Fine Productions, platforms: PC, PS4, PS Vita, iOS)
Ben Throttle, leader of biker gang The Polecats, is framed for murder of a motorcycle manufacturer and has to find the culprit in a world of corporate and biker gang violence.
Not the typical crazy story and characters
LucasArts adventure games were renowned for their silly slapstick humor, weird characters, and even crazier plot that would mostly be an excuse for mind-bending puzzle solving. Full Throttle is quite different, as it tells a much more straightforward revenge story that relies more on character and plot development with a fair bit of violence thrown in. While it’s not the most original story, with some predictable revelations and characters that aren’t that deep, it’s still told in a suspenseful if rather short way to keep the audience entertained for about 4 hours. Dialogues are never too long, some even have dry humor in them, and the characters have enough personality to be likable, although they’re not as memorable as in other Tim Schafer games.
A brutal world to drive through
However, what is memorable is the atmosphere of a biker’s hard life in a world of gangs that don’t only have a unique look, but also their own philosophy and even religion. What they all have in common is to survive on the highway, living by their creed, which might involve taking out transports to salvage mechanical parts or fuel. While this might sound like a Mad Max-like post-apocalyptic setting, this is never made explicit, and Tim Schafer himself said it should be taken as an alternative version of our own. With hovercraft vehicles, it’s certainly a more futuristic take, but still a unique one that is more memorable than most characters that inhabit it or the story that takes place there.
Being a game about a harsh environment, it’s not surprising that violence is the order of the day. This is reflected in a much more aggressive attitude of Ben towards people who don’t want to comply with his demands and can either be seen in him simply kicking open a door, pulling a barman’s pierced nose down the table, or smashing his opponents on their bikes. The latter is shown in a fun but also quite frustrating action mini-game in which the player has direct control over the bike from a third-person perspective and can switch between various weapons to make the other bike gangs fall from their vehicles. Using the right tool against the right opponent is as essential as keeping a distance with keyboard/mouse/gamepad controls and hitting at the right time. If one wins, one will receive newer weapons or objects that are important for solving some of the puzzles. As cool as these encounters look, controls are fiddly and collision detection isn’t much better either, making this a particularly frustrating moment for players who don’t like arcade sequences. Even more infuriating is a later mini destruction derby game that suffers from horrible controls and terrible A.I..
Adventure gamers who have become familiar with the high quality of puzzles in Lucasfilm or LucasArts games will be very disappointed as well. While there are a few instances where the solutions are quite imaginative, this is certainly no head-scratcher like Day of the Tentacle: Remastered. Even if it’s a good thing that the focus is on the story without too many puzzle chain distractions, the number of conundrums is quite small. They’re mostly well-integrated, but with a fair bit of timed sequences and even death scenes, this is certainly no game for people with slow reflexes or puzzle-lovers. The inclusion of a hotspot key in the new version is worth mentioning, as it’s not often clear how to interact with the environment and which items can be picked up. However, this doesn’t make the problem of clicking on almost identically-looking parts of the environment disappear, nor are the slow walking animations of Ben addressed.
Graphics and sounds to remember or revive
Like all LucasArts point-and-click adventure games and especially those Tim Schafer was involved in, the pixel art direction is timeless with detailed backgrounds and still impressive cutscenes. Unlike Day of the Tentacle, it doesn’t have the colorful look or comic character models, making it feel more like a graphic novel. Switching to the remastered graphics is again an eye-opener. Despite losing some of its gritty, dirtier quality, the new character models and backgrounds stay true to the original with much more details. Considering what a pixelated mess some faces were in the 1995 version, it’s great to finally see real human if comic-style faces.
Just as the graphics look crisp, so does the voice acting and music sound much better than in the original thanks to better recording quality. While the score hasn’t really been tinkered with so much in terms of variations, it’s much clearer and therefore preferable to the old one. The voices are all of a high quality, and it’s worth noting that Mark Hamill of Star Wars ‘Luke Skywalker’ fame was involved as well, making it even more memorable. Of course a game about bikers needs great heavy guitar rock melodies, and The Gone Jackals’ tracks of their album Bone To Pick is simply a perfect accompaniment to it.
A forgotten oddity and rough diamond in the re-making
Full Throttle is a testament to Tim Schafer’s creative approach to adventure game design, trying out new things, even if they don’t always work. While the playtime of around 4 hours isn’t much of a problem today with all sorts of short storytelling experiences and episodic gaming, the lack of challenging puzzles and the inclusion of frustrating arcade sequences is. The story wasn’t very original back in the days, but it’s unique in the canon of adventure games. Despite all these flaws, the title is still a lot of fun to play, because the setting is relatively fresh, the art direction is great, the voice acting is really good, and the soundtrack is still awesome to listen to after all these years.
The remastered version of Full Throttle again shows that Double Fine has what it takes to revive a classic title and make it look and sound as best as it can today. Some people will still switch to the old graphics and sounds, but the newer graphics and sound quality almost make the classic one obsolete. As it’s always the case, an optional commentary is as welcome as a concept art gallery and even a music library, making it the definitive package for new and old fans alike.
Buy the digital PS4/PS Vita version on
the PSN store
Buy the iOS version on
the iTunes store
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