Today Tim Schafer is one of the video game industry’s most hallowed creators, but before he designed classics like Grim Fandango and Psychonauts or became champion of indie gaming as leader of Double Fine, he created a strange little asphalt-scented game called Full Throttle. It’s probably not a mistake that Full Throttle is the last of Schafer’s old LucasArts adventure games to get an HD remastering.
Full Throttle was an odd duck buck in 1995, but has it improved with age over the past two decades? Is this old hog deserving of vintage status, or should it be locked in the shed? Let’s see how Full Throttle Remastered measures up when the rubber meets the road…
Full Throttle Remastered (PC, PS4 & PS Vita)
Full Throttle takes place in a dystopian, possibly post-apocalyptic, world where most people now drive anti-grav cars, which really irritates the hell out of Ben, leader of goofily-named biker gang, the Polecats. The last American company still making wheeled vehicles is Corley Motors, and Ben and his gang soon find themselves framed for the murder of the company’s elderly CEO, Malcolm Corley. In order to clear the gang’s name, and make sure evil vice president Adrian Ripburger doesn’t take over, Ben has to do battle with motorcycle bandits, solve a few brainteasers, and blow up a lot of toy bunnies.
Even CEOs had Jonathan Taylor Thomas hair in the 90s.
As you may have gathered from that plot synopsis, Full Throttle strikes kind of an odd tone. It isn’t as overtly jokey as most other LucasArts adventure games, but I wouldn’t call it a serious story, either. At its best, the writing is memorably quirky, but sometimes the game feels like a comedy without enough jokes. That can largely be attributed to main character Ben, who reacts to everything with a variety of humorless grunts and gripes. This dude is no Guybrush Threepwood. But perhaps I’m being too tough on the writing. Full Throttle is far from Schafer’s magnum opus, but it is unpredictable and suitably weird. This game’s world will stick with you long after you solve its last puzzle.
Full Throttle was quite the lavish production in 1995, featuring a mixture of intricate pixel art and 3D graphics, but those “cutting-edge” visuals only serve to date the game today. Despite being an older title, Day of the Tentacle looked much better in remastered form – Full Throttle’s large detailed faces look rather off-putting redrawn in crisp HD, and the less said about the game’s 3D elements, the better. That said, most of the lovingly-designed backgrounds still look nice.
At least the audio holds up. The game stars a murderer’s row of 90s cartoon voice actors, including Maurice LaMarche (Brain from Pinky and the Brain), Jack Angel (every Disney Afternoon series), Kath Soucie (Tiny Toons, Captain Planet, and many others), Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons), and Mark Hamill himself, doing his best Joker voice. The soundtrack, which includes legit band The Gone Jackals, is also top notch, with some of the songs featuring a few of the game’s funniest lines.
Full Throttle’s at its best when it sticks to the basic adventure game template of “apply wacky item to problem to get an unexpected solution.” The game’s point ‘n’ click mechanics work well, and a few of the game’s early trials force you to use some satisfying creative thinking. I particularly like how often a simple swift kick is the solution to your problems. Not every puzzle should require a dozen steps! Less pleasing are the puzzles that require some sort of timing element, and Full Throttle serves up a lot of them (more and more as the game progresses). The game does a particularly poor job of making clear when you’re dealing with a basic inventory logic puzzle, or something more outside the box.
Look at all the pretty HD clickables.
And don’t even get me started on the full-on action scenes! They’re uniformly terrible. Full Throttle’s biker battle and demolition derby sections were bad in 1995, and they’re very-nearly unplayable today. Laughably stiff controls and unclear objectives will have you screaming at your screen and badly drag down the game’s middle stretch. Aside from a visual spit shine, Double Fine’s recent remasters have largely left the games as-is, but Full Throttle’s action bits could have done with a deeper overhaul.
Thankfully, the action sections don’t last long, but then again, nothing does. Full Throttle is a short game. A lot of classic adventure games are, but Full Throttle feels like its missing chunks. The game consists of roughly five acts, each of which can be finished in 10 or 15 minutes if you know what you’re doing. First-time players will take longer, but most will still finish the game in under five hours. Thankfully, Double Fine is selling Full Throttle Remastered for a reasonable 12 bucks.
Full Throttle isn’t a top-tier LucasArts game or one of Tim Schafer’s masterpieces. It’s a B-list peculiarity. Which isn’t to say it’s bad -- Full Throttle has some inspired moments, and takes place within a memorable (and very 90s) world, but the game feels incomplete, and some of its “innovations” are embarrassingly antiquated today.
Double Fine has done a respectable job remastering Full Throttle, but the reverent approach used for Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango doesn’t necessarily work here. This is a game in need of a more thorough tune-up. Hardcore LucasArts fans and folks interested in exploring the obscure recesses of video game history should give Full Throttle Remastered a shot, but the uninitiated expecting a classic may want to consider a different turnoff.
Score: 3 out of 5 stars
This review was based on a PS4 copy of Full Throttle Remastered provided by Double Fine Productions