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Impressions: Full Bore

With stuffing

It's widely accepted that there are far too few porcine-digging games. Full Bore is one attempt to redress this gap, an open-world puzzler in which you, a burrowing boar, must explore the piggy mines and solve piggy puzzles. I've had a piggy look.

It's possible for your strength to be your weakness. For instance, my strength is being able to punch my fist through my entire head. Full Bore's is to provide you with a digging pig, caverns to explore and limited instructions what to do within in them. As you explore you further understand your abilities, get better at solving the pretty complicated puzzles in the order you choose, but only ever wonder why you're doing it.

The game's title is an extremely efficient pun. You are a boar, and you dig a lot. The opening sequence, which is pleasingly barking, sees you somehow trapped in some sort of pig-run mine, where you must, um, I guess do something? What you seem most driven to do is gather gems, since there's a counter on the screen for how many you've collected, and entering the smaller puzzle-based areas tells you how many there are to collect. What are you collecting them for? As far as I've played, I've still no clue. And, in truth, this not knowing is the reason I've wandered away from the game after a couple of hours.

The most immediate comparison to make is the 3DS's absolutely exquisite SteamWorld Dig, in approach, at least. Unfortunately, Full Bore doesn't offer the handheld game's stunning sense of forward motion or slick, perfect delivery. But it does provide a good deal of much more direct, tile-pushing/destroying puzzles, in a pleasingly open environment.

Rather than having screen after screen of contrived puzzles, Full Bore disguises them nicely into the wider game. The main mine is massive, and exploring it requires imaginative manipulation of the environment. Then there are very many other areas linked by tunnels, which tend to offer more confined spaces to deliver jewel-gathering challenges. But a few of them in any one space, letting things feel more natural, less like levels through which you're required to progress.

But then, like I say, that strength/weakness thing. Because the lack of a sense of progress rather quickly robbed me of a motivation to persist when things got tricky. There are certain puzzles I think I just currently can't solve - perhaps there are abilities to come that will let me? But so far, nothing has offered me any, and I feel stuck with my boar's initial digging, stomping and shoving skills, and they don't feel like enough.

This is all despite a really lovely out-of-the-mine world, with peculiar piggy characters, classrooms, other miners, and so on. If only the conversations they offer included an idea of what it was you were supposed to be doing. In one section of the sprawling mine, and goodness knows which one on the almost useless map, a boar asked me to find him something from the main mine. At this point the quest isn't remembered by the game, flagged on the map, nor signposted in any way whatsoever. I've no idea what it is he actually wants (it has a meaningless name), where it might be, nor what I need to do in order to be able to get it. And that's enough things to not know to have me sadly not care either.

The thing is, I want to care. While this certainly isn't another SteamWorld Dig - and by crikey do I want more of that - it is a pleasant and promising dig-fest, and feels like just the sort of thing I should be getting deeply into. Presently, it's keeping me out.

The other issue I have, and this is simply one of personal taste, is my tolerance for said tile-pushing puzzles. Checkpoints are frequent, because it's very easy to dig your way into an unrecoverable place - do this and you can respawn your boar before you messed up and try again. That means there's not the endless frustration of needing to start large areas again because you dug when you meant to jump, but it also means that the puzzles are designed to be ambiguous, to let you make mistakes. This looseness, combined with the game's openness, means there is an extremely strong lack of direction. That may be your dream, and I encourage you to snap the game up today before the price more than doubles tomorrow. But it may leave you with that same sense of gaming agoraphobia it does me.

This is, apparently, just the first half of the game, with the second due when it's finished, and at no additional cost. And when that cost is a tiny $5 for today, at least, that seems small enough to give this a go if you're on the fence. I want to have become more stuck into it, but so far its openness has been its undoing for me. For you, it might be just the thing you're after.

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