Wot I Think: Full Throttle Remastered

Full Throttle Remastered [official site] is the return of perhaps the most under-appreciated of the classic 90s LucasArts adventures. Double Fine’s remastering will hopefully go a long way to seeing it gain a reputation among a new generation. Here’s wot I think:

There’s a temptation to take my review of Day Of The Tentacle Remastered, then Find/Replace “DOTT” for “Full Throttle”. Double Fine are onto a good thing here, taking some of the best loved games of the 1990s, redrawing the art, remixing the sound, and releasing them in working condition for modern PCs. May they not stop at LucasArts games, and do the rest of the industry too. It can feel difficult to add much more to the discussion, because if you hate the new art but love the new sound, switch the first off and the second on. It’s Full Throttle, it’s the same great-but-flawed adventure, the same gorgeously detailed but far too short tale of biker Ben in a future world where cars no longer have wheels.

Then of course it occurs to me not everyone is ancient. While there’s pretty much no excuse for not knowing about Day Of The Tentacle and Sam & Max: Hit The Road, it’s far more feasible that someone not born before the 90s would have entirely missed Full Throttle. Not because it didn’t succeed – it was one of LucasArt’s most successful adventures, selling well over a million copies, ten times what they’d expected. But it’s the one that’s mentioned after DOTT, S&M, Grim Fandango, Fate Of Atlantis, and of course the Monkey Island series. It can lay claim to a greater place in people’s memories than LOOM, sure, but it’s fair to say it hasn’t received the long-term adulation given elsewhere. And that’s not really fair.

Schafer’s ’90 heydays saw his projects become increasingly meaningful to him, delving into a world or a theme in an intimate manner, and perhaps never better than in Grim Fandango. But Full Throttle was a loving look at the land of the grease monkey, setting the more usually villainous biker character as the hero in a near-future setting where cars fly and only one company makes motorcycles any more. A company that is being brought down from within with the intention of making minivans. Minivans.

The evil Adrian Ripburger (voiced by Mark Hamill, with an early demonstration of his penchant for growly-throated baddie types) murders Malcolm Corley, the founder and CEO of Corley Motors, and frames biker gang The Polecats for the crime. Ben, the gang’s leader, is your character, now on the run from the police and aided by Maureen Corley, daughter of the now-late Malcolm. And so it is that you inventory puzzle your way through a beautifully painted, murky world of desert roads and run-down provinces, proving your innocence and saving the wheel.

On release, Full Throttle was perhaps the first sign of adventure fatigue from critics. It was 1995, and the flawless DOTT and S&M had in years past rightly received rave reviews from everywhere, inducing everyone else in the industry to try to copy. The press were perhaps looking to take LucasArts down a peg, and Full Throttle provided the opportunity. It was short, the puzzles were simpler, and it had some absolutely god-awful action sequences. It didn’t receive a drubbing, of course – but it did represent the beginnings of the tedious decision that the time of the adventure was coming to an end. It was the turning point, from “YAY ADVENTURES!” to the incessant idiocy of “Adventure games are dead, apart from this one,” on every release.

Length really was the issue most focused on – something that just seems bizarre today in our world of hundred-million-dollar six hour FPS games. But games were big back then, and Full Throttle’s tale not taking so long to tell felt unusual. Something exacerbated by the other anachronistic notion from those Days Of Yore: puzzles.

It’s impossible to believe today, but people used to get stuck on a game and respond by stopping and thinking about it for a few hours, maybe overnight. Impossible. Try to believe it… See? And yet it was true. Full Throttle wanted to move away from that, and in that ideology was deeply prescient of where the genre (and all of gaming) was heading. It wanted to offer challenges that could be solved there and then, with some hard thinking. It’s completely bonkers that today the challenges in FT are FAR harder than anything you’d get in a present-day point-and-clicker, but at the time not needing to wait for the next issue of your favourite gaming magazine in hope that particular puzzle might be solved in the back pages was considered anus. And indeed sped up the process of playing an already shorter game.

As with last year’s DOTT, Double Fine have done a really lovely job updating, especially with the sound. You can switch back and forth between the original mono monotony, and the superbly remixed version, and there’s no contest – crisp, clear voices over unfuzzy music – it’s a joy. And no more joyous than the late Roy Conrad’s stunning performance as Ben. What a treat to hear his euphonious growling voice so distinctly. They’ve also made some neat tweaks to the interface, the contextual pop-up click menu no longer needing the mouse button to be held down, for instance. (Although you can set that back if you’re mad.) The art is going to be far more in the eye of the beholder, but it’s undeniably faithful to the original.

DOTT’s remaster resulted in scenes that looked far better for being updated, and others that looked worse. I think Full Throttle sees a lot more of the latter, but because the original was just so beautiful. As I obsessively F1 between the original and remastered version in every scene, sometimes I wonder at how blurry and ill-defined key objects were on the screen, and am grateful for the improvements. But it never looks aesthetically better. The original pixel art was some of the best ever, and something is distinctly lost in the upgrading process.

I believe that’s a result of the process, rather than a condemnation of the new art. In trying to remain faithful to the original design, the art is restricted in a way that means it just isn’t suited. I imagine the same team given the freedom to draw the scenes to their own vision could do something lovely with the style, but for me, here, it feels less than the original.

There are, unfortunately, some elements that are rather shoddy. A new ability to highlight interactive objects by pressing Shift is poorly implemented, with key objects missed and areas showing highlights where there’s nothing. Plus all the new menus look haphazardly thrown together, the instruction screens especially amateurish, looking like a late 90s Geocities site. It’s oddly tacky, unreflective of the core game, and disappointingly slapdash. There’s also a very welcome optional audio commentary, containing some lovely #bants about the game’s development from the original team, but they’ve been put in really strangely.

Chatter for a scene is triggered by pressing A, but is sometimes peculiarly incongruous to that moment. And frustratingly, it doesn’t bother to note if you’ve listened, so will prompt you to press A again on return only to hear the same thing again. Yet sometimes it may have updated, so you’ll want to check. Nrrgghh. Weirder still, it’ll sometimes come in uninvited over cutscenes, meaning it collides with the in-game dialogue for a bit of chatter you can’t listen to again after. The audio quality for the commentary is also really poor, everyone at different levels, the sound hissy and untidy, with conversation abruptly cut off at seemingly arbitrary points. Such a shame, as what’s being said is generally splendid.

The ability to tweak it to the version of Full Throttle you want (I’d recommend the wonderful original art with the excellent new sound and music) rules out most complaints you could have. It needs another pass for minor bugs mentioned above, but nothing is serious. In the end, this is Full Throttle made playable once again, and that’s something to be celebrated. It’s a really fantastic game, with a lovely story, and brilliant performances. And out of its original timeline it’s free to just be itself, not compared to the last or the next LucasArts adventure to hit the shelves. If you loved the original, this is worth buying for the improved sound alone. If you never played it, then oh my goodness, hurry up!

Full Throttle Remastered is out now for Windows via Steam, Humble and GOG for £11/$15/€15 (although currently sporting a 20% discount)


  1. svge says:

    Great game, glad to see it revived for modern PCs. You’re right about the art but if you gave it to a 10 year old (like I was when I plated it) they’d probably prefer the modern visuals.

  2. Artiforg says:

    Is the destruction derby bit as horrible to control as the original?

  3. jeremyalexander says:

    Getting older is such a strange experience. It’s weird to think that whole generations of gamers might not even know some of these great games exist. I like to see these remasters bring the games to younger players though. Games aren’t like music. Great music from my dad’s generation, mine, and younger can sit next to each other and be great, while games simply got better as time went on. I grew up in love with the Ultima series because almost every release was a generational leap in tech especially the jumps made from 4-7. After having tried to go back and replay them, they are pretty bad. They’re more about good concepts than execution. The gameplay is boring, the interaction is pretty much just a couple lines of dialogue and the stories are beyond simplistic and basically just rip off fairy tales. I would love to see a series like that revived by a company like Obsidian, or Bethesda to see what they could do with it and todays technology. It’s great to see that all of these old games are being preserved for the future though. The 80’s and 90’s were such a good time to be a gamer, it would be a shame to lose it all to time, or indifference.

  4. aircool says:

    Did they ever remake Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (or whatever it was called?). I really enjoyed that one, but never got to finish it.

    Also, wasn’t there an Indiana Jones Tomb-Raider-alike? I’m sure I had that but never finished it either.

    I wonder if I have Raiders of the Lost Ark on DVD anywhere… I feel like watching it for some reason.

    • jj2112 says:

      I don’t think they remade it, but I’m sure I’ve got a version somewhere around that works on current machines. The other game you’re referring to is The Infernal Machine, a good game but with terrible combat (well, like Tomb Raider). I would recommend it but I’m sure it’s aged badly.

    • The Bitcher III says:

      Licensing issues are a big obstacle to reviving Indy Jones. Although it’s frustrating that one of the great action franchises series is left to rot, I suppose Lara, as well as Nathan Drake have something to do with it.

      I do remember a tech demo of a PC Indy game. It showed some wonderfully animated fight sequences. And that was all we ever saw. Every couple of years, rumours would appear that it was being revived. They didn’t come from nowhere, and the tech and production looked extremely expensive for the time, suggesting a decent amount of money was invested. But nope. All I have is to offer is a series of images….
      …..one of which will remain seared in my mind as a emblematic of promises the world made to me.

      Sociologists estimate that 25% of all post-millenial cynicism can be traced back to that one image.

      • WJonathan says:

        Are you sure that wasn’t what eventually became The Emperor’s Tomb? (Which I actually enjoyed quite a bit).

        • jj2112 says:

          No, this was in development after Emperor’s Tomb but was never released.

          • funkstar says:

            it was showing off euphoria, something that was used later on in GTA and the Force Unleashed, amongst other things. Was it ever confirmed that it existed as more than a tech demo?

    • MrBehemoth says:

      There were 3x 3d Indy games: the Infernal Machine, the Emperor’s Tomb (which I think was the slightly better game and at least as good as contemporary Tomb Raider outings), and then Staff of Kings came out on consoles in 2009 and was generally dispised.

      The abandoned tech demo that The Bitcher mentions was an Indy game being developed alongside the Euphoria procedural animation engine. I guess they ditched it for The Force Unleashed. It’s the same character physics as in the more recent GTA games.

    • April March says:

      I think there were a few Indiana Jones Tomb-Raider-alikes. Did you have a Nintendo 64? You might be thinking of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine.

    • PiiSmith says:

      This is the one game from this collection, I want to see remade. I have very special memories about and wonder how it really looks and works from my perspective today.

  5. CartonofMilk says:

    Ill preface my comment by saying I have been gaming since the early to mid 80s but im pretty sure all that is “lost” in the remastered art is nostalgia.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      While my basic point of view is like you, that I definitely prefer high resolution graphics (just imagine if Wadjet Eye could do this!), if you look at the screenshots of old man Corley, the blocky pixels add a bit of roughness to him that’s hard to capture in the cleaner graphics. Ripburger next to him is perfect, though, and I think what’s shown is is a really good job made with the graphics. I can’t wait to play it! (I will have to wait a few days, because of work, but you know what I mean.)

      • polecat says:

        I completely agree with this – I find the same thing with Ben too, in the face the high res art style makes him look a bit cleaner and a bit less disreputable than in the original (and my memories!) But I still played through with modern visuals throughout and enjoyed it – the backgrounds etc are much improved, and some of the characters like Ripburger and Mo definitely look better.

        Reading the comments below it’s clear the choice between old/new implementations is subjective, and not just down to age – so good job to Double Fine on giving people the choice.

        This is totally my era and I love this game – glad to play again

    • John Walker says:

      No, I’m pretty sure that when I look at the two different versions I find one more aesthetically pleasing than the other.

    • The Bitcher III says:

      I’m not sure. The point about the art direction is that it was all geared to fully exploit the limitations of the medium, the animation style, and so on. Here is a fantastic lecture from the guy behind it all. One of my very favourite gaming related videos.
      4k, smooth animation and scrolling are a different medium. In the same way that remaking, (say) Van Gogh’s Sunflowers from scratch in a 1500dpi photoshop effort does not improve the end product, or capture it. At best, you end up with something different.
      I had little problem with the MI remakes, but some of DOTT’s wacky art did not transfer well. Subtle hints of the texture and lighting become flat, monochrome surfaces (the piping on the chronojohn). Some of the crazy shapes were also suggested through artistic application of techniques devised for a heavily pixelated end product. The kitchen, for example, is now just some boring cabinets, useless empty space – rather than a clash of brightly colourful vs dark pixels that invited the eye to peer into nooks and crannies, and where the eye goes, the pointer follows. Even if there was nothing there, being sure of that was part of the exploratory process that is lost in translation.
      The pixelation and limited frames of animation was harnessed to create a goofy quality to speech and movement. And I think there were some gags based on sprite sizing, etc. This is perhaps my true problem with these remakes. Guybrush was better remade in the last two Monkey Island point and clicks. In the MI remasters, he lost his stubble, the hint of grime and suntan, and his brow seemed to have retracted, leaving him with a flat face that I found the least characterful of any of his iterations.
      You can see the same thing in the photos above. The mechanic and Mr eyebrows both seem to have lost 15 years. The mechanic appearing to have had a haircuit and a wet shave is especially incongruent. Most of all, I look at Ben’s chin and see the same gentle comic exaggeration of features, the same slightly squinted, ‘I’m thinking hard’ face that appropriately depicts a big lump of meat. An unlikely hero. Like old Guybrush.
      Sorry, this is possibly my favourite topic in gaming.
      TL:DR – Watch the video.

    • grimdanfango says:

      This is one of the best articles I saw on the matter:

      link to dinofarmgames.com

      Attempting to “remaster” pixel art is to miss the whole damned point of pixel art.

      Anyone attempting to “remaster” an impressionist painting would be laughed at. It’s very nearly the same thing. The original art looks beautiful in large part because of its particular style, regardless of whether that style was a response to technological limitations or not, and any attempt to fiddle with it can only ever work against it. It is precisely what it was created to be.

      That’s not to say all cases are the same – if a game’s aesthetic is photorealism, then sure, a remastering can bring it closer to the specific *point* of its aesthetic.

      No pixel artist was ever shooting for photorealism though. The closest anyone was ever trying to get was some kind of hyperreal distilation, and that stands up no better to attempts to “improve” it, as the most that will ever be achieved is to make the art look more… ordinary. Who on Earth would want that?!

      • Uri B says:

        Thus the suggestion to use original art + updated sound?

        • grimdanfango says:

          Oh sure, I think it’s certainly the best idea given they felt the need to upres the artwork that they gave the option to disable it and retain the other beneficial updates. No complaints in that regard. I just question the point of doing it in the first place.

          Well, not even that I guess… the point is clear – enough people out there equate higher-res directly with “better”, and pixelation directly with “bad”, that there’s obviously a market for such an endeavour. I just hope they didn’t rope any of the original artists into bastardizing their own hard work, and having to fake a smile and claim earnestly that they think it’s better this way :-P

        • April March says:

          I agree… I think. The remaster is very faithful to the original art, but it still seems to set the tone entirely wrong. The original seems apropriately gritty; the new one seems too cartoony. And I think the comment of ‘remastering an impressionist painting’ is spot-on; pixel art is a bit cartoony by its nature, so trying to just clean it up muddles up the original’s theme and intent.

          Of course, the solution then is to redraw everything from the ground up to match intent rather than appearance, but not only is that way harder, it’s way more likely to draw hate and be considered “disrespectful”. Too bad. I’d prefer a version with ‘modern’ graphics, but not this one.

        • The Bitcher III says:

          Even then, you aren’t really getting the experience, as the art was designed to be displayed on CRT monitors, scanlines and all. It doesn’t translate particularly well to LCD screens.

          I don’t think it’s an issue here, but there are a lot of games where having to upscale to a playable resolution means using the usual upscaling methods, YaDiff, etc, which again is to the detriment of the original intent, as it blurs the pixels. I’m waiting for someone to do a simple nearest neighbour upscale plugin, that spreads one pixel accross four.

          Personally, I think the voxel based approach has shown the best approach of harnessing the successes of the original pixel art aesthetic on modern systems.

      • Rikard Peterson says:

        For something like the original Monkey Island, where yoy really can descibe it as pixel art, I’ll concede your point, but here? Particularly when looking at the characters, I think it’s clear that Ripburger looks exactly as he was meant to look in these screenshots. And Mo who now looks as she does in her closeups rather than just a blur.

        As I said in another comment, I will agree that there are some occasions where something is lost when the graphics is cleaned up. But I absolutely see the whole as a big improvement. It’s not like the cleaning of the Jesus fresco in Borja. (And the original still remains, for both historians and people like you who prefer the old look.)

        (It’s funny that nobody argues against the improved audio. There we all seem to agree that a remastering to get rid of the technical limitations was a good thing.)

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        phuzz says:

        Today, when someone makes pixel art, it’s a deliberate choice, back in the day, they were making their pictures as high resolution as possible.
        To me, these up-resed graphics are pretty much how I remember the originals looking, given that there’s ten years of nostalgia caked on top of those memories.

      • KenTWOu says:

        I guess, you didn’t get the point of the article you yourself mentioned. Reread the part where Mighty Final Fight compared with Rambo. Full Throttle is not a ‘pixel art’ game, they were simply working in the highest definition available to them, that’s why an attempt to “remaster” it makes perfect sense.

    • Seyda Neen says:

      I’m 22 years old, never played this game or any other LucasArts point and click. The pixel art looks better. All respect to the artist/artists, but I think the remastered character drawings look a bit cheap.

      • Paul B says:

        I’m 37 years old and remember playing the original game when it first came out. You have to remember we played this on our 14 & 15″ CRT Monitors, which were considerably kinder to pixel art – one conseqence was that the pixels became smeared together. The remastered art looks like how I remember the game.

        Anyhow, as others and John have noted, the good thing is you can choose between the new and old art styles, so it’s entirely down to player preference now.

    • Caiman says:

      I’m in my 40s and I remember the original, but never played it. I have no nostalgia for it, and frankly the remastered art looks better; just a higher resolution version of the original. I’m a big fan of pixel art from any decade, but going purely on the aesthetic appeal here I do actually think they did a great job with the update and preserving the tone. That’s only based on the handful of shots posted here of course, they may be the best examples.

  6. Mandrake42 says:

    Always one of my favourites. Bizarrely it’s become a running joke for a friend and I, as we play the Apocalypse song (Actually called Chitlins, Whiskey, a Skirt) from time to time to annoy his wife. Well, that went on a tangent.

    Great to see a remaster of this. With 3 big remasters under their belt now, I hope Double Fine can go back to the drawing board and make a new adventure that captures the spirit of these old classics. More so than Broken Age did at least. I actually didn’t mind that game, but it was less than I was hoping for. With DoTT, Grim Fandango and Full Throttle now fresh in their minds, maybe it’s time for another attempt?

  7. Barchester says:

    I had the really weird experience with the updated art in that it looked exactly how I remembered the game, and was quite amazed at how unclear much of the original (undeniably great) pixel art is.

    • phlebas says:

      I’m with you on this – looks like they did a great job. Looking forward to playing the remaster at some point – FT had its flaws but was still a great game. It includes possibly my favourite small puzzle ever, just beautiful. Sadly I was so impressed that I remember the solution twenty years on, and can’t approach it fresh again…

    • anevilyak says:

      One thing a lot of people seem to forget is the influence CRTs had on how these pixels were displayed back then. They were far less crisp than they would be on a modern LCD, leading them to look, well, not as pixelated as they would when displayed on the latter. This is further exacerbated by ~14″ monitors being the norm back then.

  8. TorQueMoD says:

    Good review but why the heck would you start by noting that a lot of people may not have played it and then spoil the plot points without warning. You don’t find out about Mo til the end of the game and even knowing about ripburger before you see the opening would suck. Way to ruin the plot for new fans! That’s irresponsible journalism!

    • yer taffin me says:

      That’s Walking Dead Walker’s writing style, he does that all the time. Best advice is to obviously not read anything about a game you’re about to play, nevermind John’s reviews on RPS of all things haha! At least Meercat and Des O’Connor usually give warnings I suppose, but hey at least now you know :)

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      Agreed. A spoiler heavy review can be great if it’s written for analysis and discussion — written for people who have played / watched / read the thing already, and clearly marked as such. (For good examples of that, see some of Film Crit Hulk’s essays, or SPAG Specifics.)

      But the plot description here was not needed. It’s nothing new for us who have played it, and it’s certainly too spoilery for those who haven’t. I wonder who it was written for?

  9. dashausdiefrau says:

    This was mentioned above but remastering pixel art is necessary, because we don’t watch our games on 13-14″ CRTs any more. If you ever go to a retro convention those screens look jawdroppingly beautiful and rather sharp. Even the images attached here are 2 times bigger than they are supposed to be(620×330 instead of the original 320×200). If you are interested how the image looked like please open the image on a separate tab and set zoom to 50%, and it is still not the real deal, that is a 14″ CRT could do.

    The remaster looks good imho, but for me general image resizing algorithms(HQ3X,SuperSai) are good enough, even if they create artifacts, and much better than thinking that stretching a 320×200 image to a 1080p and 32″ LCD makes the game more authentic.

  10. dashausdiefrau says:

    By the way, if you are interested, look at this: link to ibb.co

    Take the close-to-original image size and compare that with the downscaled(640×292) remastered image.

  11. lancelot says:

    One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the remastered picture is 33% wider than the original, so it actually has some new content that was absent in the original game. “Now with 33% more art!”

    My issue is with the animations mostly, some of them are too simplistic, so they don’t quite mesh with the high resolution graphics.

    There are some things that I think could have been easily improved: Shift doesn’t show the exits, you still have to press the dot key to skip dialogs, but on top of that you also need the backspace key to skip non-interactive sequences. Also when you have an item selected, you get an annoying “Backspace to cancel” prompt that doesn’t go away.

    What’s interesting though is how unfair the puzzles seem by today’s standards. The key step in the gas tower puzzle isn’t hinted at in any way. The dog puzzle doesn’t give any indication that an item is needed, so you may spend an hour experimenting with the crane for nothing. And even when you have the item but try to use it with the wrong car, you just get chased away, again with no indication that you’re on the right track. And so on.

  12. polecat says:

    Thanks to John for the review which to me is spot on, except I think laments on the game’s lack of length were valid on release, and are valid now. I know expectations have changed over the intervening years, but taken purely on its own terms it felt – and on replay still feels – short. I think that’s partly because it is, and partly because it does such an amazing job of world-creation that you feel it’s got loads more to offer. In its original context I remember being completely blown away by the technological and creative steps forward that made it feel infinitely more cinematic than DOTT / MI, but feeling like it was missing an Act, or at least a filling out of the penultimate Act.

    Despite that I would recommend this to anyone who has ever loved adventure games. The setting, characters and world creation are absolutely fantastic; so is the voice acting; and the puzzles are satisfying enough. It is worth a tenner merely for the opening sequence. The modernised art is a subjective matter; but the important things about the remaster are that i) it makes a great title available again and ii) as with the other titles, they have done a fantastic job restoring the sound to how they would have wanted it to be in 1995.

    I’m biased, because the original caught me originally when I was 12 and I was blown away, but my main thought is thankyou to Double Fine for their great work back in the day and for the remaster.

  13. Sivart13 says:

    Surprised there’s no mention of the fighting sequences, which started out bad and feel even worse every time I replay this game.

    Note to other players that the cheat of pressing Shift+V to automatically win a fight still works on this version. It does mean you might defeat enemies outside of the ‘intended’ order, but it doesn’t really matter.

    There’s a lot of other modern quality of life features that didn’t make it into this remaster:
    * Ben’s walk speed is intolerably slow compared to games like Thimbleweed Park where double-clicking switches to run mode.
    * Interactive objects only get a cursor when you’re able to use the context menu on them, rather than when they’re “puzzle-relevant”. This leads to some confusion e.g. the crane controls.
    * The entire Mine Road sequence has a LOT of “waiting for the next thing to happen”, which can make it frustrating to iterate on puzzle solutions. Though I have fond memories of it from my childhood, I really wish this part could’ve been completely redone to work better for a modern sensibility

    I don’t have a problem with Double Fine re-releasing this to capture some new $$, and the remastered art is mostly good, but it’s weird to claim that Full Throttle working on modern PCs is a new development. ScummVM has worked perfectly on a shitload of platforms for probably a decade now.