You are a Boar and you dig.
Full Bore: The First Dig, from Whole Hog Games, asks the player to accept a lot of strangeness right from the get go. The fact that you are a Boar may seem a little strange, but nothing that gamers can’t get their head around. Talking to other Boars who appear to have taken some form of human role in the world and getting involved with their mining enterprise (through no choice of your own, I might add), is a bit odd. But discovering that there is a whole history to this world really tips the scales and moves Full Bore from being strange into the realms of interesting…
Full Bore: The First Dig is a block-moving puzzle game set in an open world of tunnels and different types of blocks. The player takes on the role of a young Boar who, through no real fault of his own, is accused of emptying the vault of a rather rich Boar and then is forced to explore the mines and recover gems to replace this allegedly lost fortune. Or at least, I think that is what is going on. I must admit to being rather taken by the large Boar sitting behind his desk. Either way, you end up in the mines, interacting with other hard-working Boars and searching for often difficult to reach gems.
While exploring, the player will come across some unusual artifacts that hint at a “bigger picture”, including shrines that appear to teleport the player to other areas, and more importantly, computer consoles. These consoles start to reveal a bigger story of what is actually going on and what happened in the past. Finding the consoles is actually quite compelling.
Gameplay itself could not be simpler, but could be better explained. Through some simple images showing the effect of pressing a given button, the player is introduced to the mechanics that will have them moving around in the game world, and breaking or moving blocks. Different blocks react differently to the players banging their Boars’ head against them, with some crumbling almost instantly while others take a bit more effort. The more solid blocks can be moved around if the player is careful not to smash them. Some blocks can be traveled through or stepped up onto. As there is no jump option (Boars can mine precious gems, but are unable to jump), blocks may need to be arranged into step like formations to reach higher areas.
There is also an area effect stomp that the player can use, which will have differing effects on the various types of blocks, with sand blocks for example crumbling instantly. Early on in the game, the player is given a map tool (the providing Boar admits to not knowing how it works) and the player can then track their progress around the world. There are also electrifying checkpoint pads that not only zap the Boar and cause all of his hair to fall out, but also act as checkpoints which can be returned to should the player get stuck or tumble into a massive underground lake and drown.
The puzzles themselves, which make up the majority of the game, are entertaining. Many of them are straight forward and require simple placement or removal of blocks for a reward, while others will stretch the player to plan ahead to reach the objective. The open world nature of the game does mean that skipping puzzles that are proving too difficult is an option.
But the open world format has a downside too. Although the player is clearly having to gather gems to replace a lost fortune, and locating computer terminals to uncover the back story, there is not a lot of direction to the game. The map is helpful, but not as clear as it could be, and it is easy to just wander from one area to the next without knowing how to get back to explore other avenues. The game area is quite huge and there are loads of hidden areas and secrets to uncover, but the direction just feels slightly vague.
The game has a delightfully retro visual style, with sprites and pixel-heavy backdrops showing mines, temples and even laboratories. The audio track is upbeat and catchy, further adding to the games’ charm.
To top it all off, The First Dig is only the first part of the adventure, which will be known as the Full Bore Saga, which promises six to eight hours of puzzle-filled adventure on PC and Linux. Full Bore can currently be voted for on Steam Greenlight, and is available at a discount price in the Not On Steam sale.
While Full Bore: The First Dig doesn’t provide a lot of direction and is slow to get moving, the gradually building mystery will entice players to continue. It has a charming visual style and audio track, and the puzzles are quite satisfying while being straight forward to understand. If you get a chance to grab Full Bore: The First Dig, a good afternoon of puzzling Boar adventure awaits.