6: Full Throttle

Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: LucasArts
Year: 1995
Platform: DOS; Windows; Macintosh

Whenever I smell asphalt, I think of Maureen. That’s the last sensation I had before I blacked out; that thick smell of asphalt. She said she’d fix my bike. Free. No strings attached. I should’ve known then that things were never that simple. Yeah, when I think of Maureen, I think of two things: Asphalt, and trouble.

Review: That’s the first line of narration in Full Throttle, in the deep, gravelly voice of Roy Conrad, as Ben of the Polecats biker gang. He narrates over a beautifully shot 2-D road sequence as the credits roll, giving the player the immediate feeling that it just won’t be a game, but an experience. And an experience it is.

You play as Ben, who quickly becomes involved in a conspiracy, being framed for murder by some powerful people who’d just as well like to see biker gangs disappear altogether. Though you’re left for dead, you manage to survive and go on pursuit to straighten out the mess.  On the way, you meet a handful of characters, who may or may not be helpful (and you won’t always know until much later!), and are veered through some plot twists, all the while solving puzzles.

If there’s anything that hurts this game it is the puzzles. There are many, and quite a few of them are there for puzzle’s sake and nothing else.  While nearly everything is humorous, or at least amusing, one can only take so many pointless diversions. You’ll know what I mean when you are forced to collect Energizer bunnies to clear a path through a mine field(!). There are also a few arcade sequences, one of them painfully irritating, though original. Much to my delight, the player can die in this game (though rarely), but Ben is automatically restored to a point shortly before his death to give the player another shot.

What makes this game a classic is the writing, the best I can remember. Tim Schafer ably makes us feel for the protagonist, and despite his aggressive tendencies, gives him a personality that reaches far beyond the cliché persona. And the dialogue is consistently engaging and genuinely funny. To wit:

Ben: Why’d your dad keep you a secret for so long?
Maureen Corley: He didn’t want people to find out about my mom.
Ben: What was wrong with Mrs. Corley?
Maureen Corley: She wasn’t my mom.
Ben: Ah.

The dialogue is made even better by the believable acting throughout. Mark Hamill continues to amaze me with his voice talent, and here he plays the bad guy, Adrian Ripburger, in an unrecognizable performance. But it’s Roy Conrad that makes the game. Even the “You can’t do that” messages are a non-issue, as Ben gives simple, yet clear remarks (in character) to let the player know to try something else. And several Easter eggs and in-jokes are competently weaved into gameplay for LucasArts fans.

All of this is complemented by a soundtrack rivaled by only The Dig in sheer quality. San Francisco band The Gone Jackals provides most of the music, with all original songs that capture the atmosphere to perfection. The soundtrack Bone to Pick is available on their website and has sold many copies. Also, a Richard Wagner composition is slid in neatly as well as a catchy and hilarious country-western ditty called “Increased Chances.”

To top it off, the ending pays homage to overblown action movies but surprisingly doesn’t resort to trite dialogue or closure that infests many games (and movies, for that matter). Anyone who considers themselves a fan of adventure games must play Full Throttle.

Contemporary RatingMedium. Some tedious puzzles is all.

Cruelty RatingMerciful. All deaths are remedied by the game.

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