Developed by indie studio Whole Hog Games, Full Bore: The First Dig promises interesting open world exploration and challenging puzzles. What we actually get is a frustrating repetitive puzzle game that contains a large series of separate rooms, which is far from an actual open world experience.
Full Bore: The First Dig takes advantage of its name in two distinct ways. First off the game follows one of two boars: Hildi or Frederick, but there doesn’t appear to be any difference based on which character is selected. Additionally, all the non-player characters are also boars. Secondly, the game is quite boring; the only objectives are to dig and collect gems, which have no apparent use other than score, rooms are repetitive and just when the plot is about to get interesting the game abruptly ends.
That’s right, Full Bore: The First Dig isn’t a complete game. It’s part one of a two part episode that isn’t expected to be released until later this year. This is really unfortunately because right before the ending there are hints of finally some sort of conflict in the game, but up until this point the only objective has been to dig deeper and find new passageways. Even though the boar in charge, Gullinbursi, constantly tasks the player with filling up the vault, there’s no real reward or added story progression for collecting gems.
It’s possible that this could have appealed to gamers that enjoy exploration and puzzle solving, but both the exploration and puzzles are relatively linear. Almost all of the puzzles are composed of frustrating trial and error tasks that require a restart of the current room if messed up. That means if you move 10 blocks in the right spot but place the 11th wrong, that there’s no way to undo only a single mistake. Furthermore, the “exploration” aspect feels more like a guided tour than a free roaming experience; most of the time, in order to progress to the next series of rooms, a specific route must be taken or the player will end up back in one of the main hub rooms.
While I generally appreciate retro-style pixelated art, Full Bore: The First Dig doesn’t make full use of either the potential creativity or colorful effects that this style allows for. There are a lot of browns, tans, and grays, none of which are overly appealing to look at, and the only real color variations appear in the form of purple and orange crystals. As far as effects go most things just crumble away, with the exception of the purple explosives. Again, most of the rooms look way too similar and the repetition becomes straining to look at.
There’s no real plot in Full Bore: The First Dig, other than your boar falls into a deep crevice and is tasked with finding gems, and only small bits of historical data are present on random computer terminals found in the game. These terminals discuss dangerous experiments conducted by humans in the past, likely gone wrong as no humans are around in the game. I liked this version of storytelling in The Swapper because it was relevant to the plot at hand, but it seems more of an after thought here. Unless things get a lot more interesting in the second half, the story is definitely not enough on its own to warrant a playthrough.
Full Bore: The First Dig tries hard to be a retro, puzzle exploration experience, but it falls short in the creativity and excitement department. There’s not much in terms entertainment, suspense or awe which ultimately creates one of the worst flaws in game design: it’s simply boring.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which we were provided with.