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Full Void review: a cinematic platformer that channels the spirit of Another World

Ghost in the shell

A boy shuts the door on a monster with a big red eye in Full Void
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/OutOfTheBit Ltd

When I think back on most of the cinematic platformers I've played recently, it's not the latter part of their genre title I remember most, but the former. The lush camera pans of your Planet Of Lanas, the haunting backdrops of your Somervilles and the gooey, malleable monstrosities of your Insides. These dramatic moments linger in the memory much longer than their respective running and jumping, and if it's a proper platforming challenge I'm after, I usually look elsewhere, swapping cinema for action with your Raymans, Trines and Oris.

Full Void, on the other hand, is a cinematic run and jumper that manages to strike a good balance between both parts of its personality. Following in the Another World school of gorgeous pixel art meets one-foot-wrong-and-you're-dead-style platforming (albeit with much more generous checkpointing than its 1991 source material), there's a real athleticism in your teen hero's journey to bring down a despotic AI, making its intricate leaps and bounds just as memorable as its down-to-the-wire set pieces.

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Admittedly, it's not entirely clear what your small, hooded hero is working towards at first. After barrelling onto an eerie, almost apocalyptically empty riverbank, chased by what appear to be the evil cousins of Half-Life's Vortigaunts, your first and only thought is escape. You'll climb onto rooftops and down into deadly slippery sewers to outrun them, slowly getting to grips with its somewhat rigid (but still very responsive) four degrees of movement and the timing of its carefully plotted chase sequences.

For the most part, its puzzle-driven platforming is typical adventure fare. Avoid the hot bursts of steam that shoot out of cracked pipes at intermittent intervals, monkey-bar your way across perilous gaps while deadly spider bots patrol below. You know the drill. Occasionally you'll need to turn some valves and twist some knobs to disable some of these hazards, but mistime it, or get too close to an enemy, and you'll be treated to a close-up death scene in much the same mould as Another World. Okay, treated is perhaps the wrong word here, but developers OutOfTheBit have clearly put a lot of care into their exquisitely animated demises, and they inject a real sense of peril into this world you otherwise only ever see at arm's length.

A boy walks toward a window on a rooftop of an apartment building in Full Void
A boy stops in front of a watery drain in a sewer in Full Void
Each location is gorgeously lit and animated, and they all exude their own malicious atmosphere. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/OutOfTheBit Ltd
A boy runs past a park with lots of children playing inside it in Full Void
Brief flashback sequences fill in some of the story, but Full Void keeps most of its cards very close to its chest. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/OutOfTheBit Ltd

Thankfully, Full Void's checkpointing is a lot more generous than even the recent anniversary editions of Another World, and will often return you to the start of a particular puzzle if you die. There are times when it can still feel a little stingy in this respect, respawning you further back than you'd like, but thankfully this didn't happen very often. What's more, the solution was usually pretty clear after that first bungling. There was only really one sequence where I felt like I was repeatedly banging my head against the wall - an unexpected stealth section in a lab - but the penny did eventually drop after a couple of attempts. Yes, there are a couple of instant-death slip-ups that can feel particularly spiteful - and at times downright unpredictable (I'm looking at you, giant library worm) - but I can tolerate a little rote learning now and again when you're only looking at an overall run time of just over two hours.

Full Void's puzzle platforming chops also get a lot more interesting once you escape the sewers and claim a little robot pal of your own from an abandoned facility. Thanks to some brief flashback scenes, it's clear your now absent mother played a role in the AI's creation, and turning the tables on your now robotic oppressors with one of their own gives the plot a satisfying comeback arc. Your bot friend can only be deployed at set terminals, I should note, but programming in movements and actions for it to perform, often while you attend to your own human-based puzzles in tandem, makes for a satisfying and pleasingly cerebral foil to all the physical jumping, crawling through vents, climbing up ladders and running through empty train carriages you're doing elsewhere. Alas, due to the game's short run time, the bot's abilities never really get to evolve much, but OutOfTheBit do a good job of squeezing as much variety out of it as they can in the game's second act.

A boy programs a small robotic sphere to perform actions in a lab in Full Void
When you're programming your droid, a grid screen appears so you can judge the correct course and order of the required actions. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/OutOfTheBit Ltd

It's a fun little adventure, and my single black mark against it is that it's only really right at the end where you finally twig why you're here and what you've been working towards this whole time. Full Void has more than enough adrenaline pumping through its veins to carry you through to its climatic finale, but when the threat of its tense, Vortigaunt pursuits fall away, it does start to lose momentum somewhat. You're merely searching for an exit at this point, and even when you find one it's not entirely clear where you're heading next or why.

Still, it doesn't take long to find out, and played in a single sitting, Full Void has just enough peaks and troughs to keep your interest, well, piqued. Its eye-catching pixel art and moody soundtrack set the perfect tone for this dystopian adventure, and its keen sense of challenge gives it the bite that so many other cinematic platformers often lack. Considering the developers' previous work has been limited to mobile and arcade game compilations, this is an impressive debut in a new genre for the team at OutOfTheBit, and I hope we get to see more from them in the future (albeit one that's hopefully not overrun by Vortigaunt AI monsters).

This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer OutOfTheBit Ltd.

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