Full Bore

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Whole Hog Games for PC and Linux, originally released in 2013.
Full Bore is an action-puzzle game about boring boars… not uninteresting boars, mind you, but rather boars who bore… or pigs that dig if you prefer rhymes to homophones. At the outset, you are able to select between a boar named Frederick or a sow named Hildi, although the goals for both are the same. You will be traversing a block-based subterranean environment in search of gems, solving numerous environmental puzzles, and perhaps learning a bit of the history of the boar world. Boar lore, if you will.

The game begins with your favored hairy beast napping in a pastoral glen and shortly thereafter wandering into a clearing. A few seconds later, the ground literally explodes beneath your feet and you fall deep, deep underground. You awaken to find yourself in a highly technological area, which acts as a tutorial to explain your movement abilities.

Once you learn about basic environmental navigation, you discover a rocket that promises to launch you out of this strange area… except that it crashes on the way up, landing you inside the vault of a very large and powerful boar who runs the Full Boar Mining company (and who employs shortsighted moles as clerical support). He immediately accuses you of stealing all of the gems in his vault, and sends you to work in the mines to fulfill your restitution.

At this point, you are given no further direction, and you are left with a large sprawling world before you waiting to be explored. Free exploration is atypical among puzzle platformers, as developers tend to slowly introduce new mechanics, and lock players into areas where those mechanics are used before allowing them to move on.

In Full Bore, however, you are free to travel to any area on the map that you are skilled enough to reach, and there are numerous areas and rooms to explore, many of which are hidden. A few plot-driven tasks block your access to new environments, but the area that is available from the start is quite large… large enough that you need a map to properly navigate it.

On one hand, free exploration allows the player to take on the world as he chooses, but this amount of freedom in a puzzle-based game can be overwhelming. Methods for puzzle solving are not doled out to the player in a logical order, nor is the player forced to solve easier puzzles before moving into more challenging areas. In fact, the player is given almost no direction as to how to proceed.

Light puzzle solving is required to simply navigate the environment, with specific rooms dedicated to more complex puzzle-solving runs, many of which only allow progress in one direction. So, the player may run from an open free-to-explore, no-penalty area into a structured puzzle area which requires that they solve a set of puzzles before proceeding.

Many gems may be missed if puzzle solutions are not executed properly, giving players a way to bypass complex puzzles. From an exploration standpoint, this gives the player a reason to return to the area once they have gotten better at the game. From a reward standpoint, this frequently calls the player’s intelligence into question, as miscomprehending a puzzle and passing up a gem is essentially admitting failure. You know going into a puzzle that you have all of the tools that you need to solve it, but you may not have learned the nuances that you need to solve that specific puzzle… and there’s a lot to learn.

Movement is entirely grid-based, and tapping to the left or right will see the boar move one space in that direction, or you can hold the button to move in a straight line. Climbing can only be done by mounting 1-block high boxes to your left or right. You cannot climb straight up, which means that most upward movement is done staircase-style, either climbing up a series of blocks, or jumping back and forth between alternating scaffolding.

While you can’t climb straight up, you can fall straight down, which means that it’s very much possible to get yourself stuck and unable to get back to where you just were, and many of the game’s puzzles are built around this fact. You can drop down through a one-way platform, but you must climb back up from the side. Because of the ease of getting yourself stuck, a teleport button is included that warps you back to the last checkpoint, resetting the puzzle in the process.

There are several varieties of dirt and blocks, each with its own properties and behaviors, and understanding how each of them works – often in tandem – is the key to solving the game’s many puzzles. Puzzle solutions often require that you perform multiple digs or block pushes in succession to arrive at the correct solution. Fortunately, you can always teleport back to the most recent doorway or checkpoint if you blow a puzzle solution, and checkpoints tend to appear just before each gem.

Regular dirt can be dug straight through, and you gain speed while digging in a straight line, while sand is loose and will collapse if you dig under it or stand on top of it. You can even cause sand to collapse in an area around you by slamming your head into the ground, and this is often used to allow you to push a block past a solid wall. With a bit of extra effort, rocks can be dug through like dirt, but gravity affects them and they will fall if you dig under them. Fortunately, you cannot be crushed by falling blocks as you can in the subterranean puzzler Boulder Dash; in fact, you can’t actually be killed in the game. Instead your boar looks nervously upwards (one of many cute animations) when a block is about to fall, and can support the weight of the block on his or her back.

It’s important to note that falling rocks and other blocks don’t fall immediately, but rather hang in the air for a couple of seconds before falling, and this is used in some of the more advanced puzzle solutions. Later levels also feature ashen rock you can dig through, or push blocks through, but it reappears after a few seconds, preventing you from pushing blocks back the other way.

Blocks come in a number of varieties as well. Pushable blocks can be stacked, and you can push an entire vertical stack of blocks with the same ease as pushing one, but you cannot push horizontally aligned blocks. Instead, pushing against a block when there is no opening behind it will cause you to start digging into it, eventually destroying it as if it were dirt. There’s also an odd elevator-style block that you can push into a holes to cross gaps, or bash with your head to make it fall down a level.

There are a number of technology-oriented blocks as well, including floating platforms that come up to meet your feet, which can be used to reach successively higher areas by approaching them from different heights. Battery blocks can be used to charge up laser blocks that can in-turn blast through otherwise immovable blocks to clear a path. Often, you will need to dig the surrounding dirt or push blocks to line up the battery and laser blocks. Fortunately, our little porcine pal is totally immune to the effects of lasers.

A gem counter shows the total number of gems in any given room, and the number you have collected. Puzzle-based rooms tend to be confined to one screen width, which means that you won’t miss seeing a gem; however, you may still fail to reach the gem if you don’t solve the puzzle, leaving you to teleport back or skip it and come back later. Due to the nature of the level designs, puzzles necessarily reset when returning to a previous room, which means that you’ll have to re-solve several puzzles in order to reach a single missed gem.

Beyond its self-paced exploration and puzzle solving, the game does offer some speed-based challenges. For instance, you will meet up with your opposite sex boar counterpart (depending on which of the boars you selected from the start) to take part in a race. Rather than collecting gems, you are instead just trying to get yourself through the room as quickly as possible while you watch the AI-controlled boar tear up the scenery attempting the same. Another sequence has you racing ahead of a large drill and clearing out explosive blocks before the drill reaches your level.

Exploding blocks are used in later levels to set up even more complex puzzle solutions. Triggering one exploding block will cause all of the others in the area to explode in a chain reaction, and the resulting explosions can push nearby blocks away, allowing blocks to be blasted across gaps and even blasted upwards. This is a pretty substantial change given that you are otherwise fighting gravity to solve most puzzles throughout the game.

As you play, you may speak with various NPC’s and activate computer terminals that outline the storied past of a technologically advanced boar civilization that existed prior to the current one. Many of the computer terminals outline details of the dig and various scientific experiments – some of which failed – thus leading to the world as you are experiencing it. There are also some mysterious shrine-like areas spread throughout the world which have candles that light up when you walk into the enclosure and pound your head against the ground.

The game was released as two separate episodes, with the first half entitled The First Dig and the second half called Into Hard Earth. The game offers offers a huge world with dozens of areas to explore and numerous secrets, and many hours of gameplay.

Full Bore was developed by Whole Hog Games, a studio based in Northern California. The team is made up of programmer Casey Carlin, artist Finn Beazlie, and game designer Jake Federico. This was the studio’s first commercial release, although Casey was formerly employed at ARC System Works where he worked on several titles, including the 2.5D update to Contra: Hard Corps known as Hard Corps: Uprising, as well as the 2D fighter Nurarihyon no Mago: Hyakki Ryouran Taisen.

The game was originally envisioned as an arcade-style action title before eventually being transformed into a puzzle-platformer, taking inspiration from games like Fez, Escape Goat, and Offspring Fling, all of which were released during the game's development.