More than one puzzle in Full Throttle is solved by kicking something, which neatly illustrates what makes it different from most point-and-click adventures. Protagonist Ben is a tough, gruff biker. A burly slab of meat stuffed into a leather jacket with a chin you could polish stone on. And this plays into every aspect of the game, from the puzzles and storyline, to the hard rock soundtrack.
But the key to the game is that while Ben is indeed a hard-ass who can handle himself in a fight, he also has a heart. Monkey Island was an ode to the romantic idea of piracy, and Full Throttle does the same for bikers. It’s more about freedom, authenticity, and cool leather jackets than the sort of thing you read about in Hunter S. Thompson's Hell’s Angels or watch in Sons of Anarchy.
Ben’s world is small—he mentions several times that his bike is his home—but it’s still under threat. He’s on the run for a crime he didn’t commit and, worst of all, the last motorcycle manufacturer in the country, Corley Motors, is ceasing production of bikes and moving into making hovering minivans. A lot of games deal with the end of the world, but Full Throttle is about the end of Ben’s world. And this makes for an uniquely personal story.
Ben’s deep monotone voice, courtesy of the late Roy Conrad, is what makes the character really special. He underplays the role perfectly, and his deadpan delivery means the game is full of killer lines. And he sounds even better in the remaster. Double Fine found the tapes from the original voice recording sessions, and it’s a strange sensation hearing all those famous lines without a layer of fuzz over the top. Hearing Ben’s voice rumble through my speakers again, now beautifully clear and uncompressed, is a delight.
This was the first LucasArts adventure released after the Day of the Tentacle, and it couldn’t be more different. The puzzles are a lot simpler, the interface is more streamlined, and the presentation is way more lavish and cinematic. Instead of the old verb buffet at the bottom of the screen, clicking on an object brings up a flaming skull with a selection of actions that reflect Ben’s character: the gloved fist and the leather boot being the most frequently utilised.
The downside of this simplified design is that the game is arguably too short, taking about 5-6 hours to finish depending on how many puzzles you get stuck on. I know them all inside out and I clocked it in just three. But it does mean that it’s more fast-paced, dynamic, and exciting than most adventure games. And, in hindsight, maybe that’s a better fit for a game about a guy like Ben. If he spent more time wandering around solving puzzles than tearing off to the next location on his hog, he wouldn’t be much of a biker, would he?
If you want a satisfying, challenging puzzle-solving experience, play Day of the Tentacle or Thimbleweed Park. Full Throttle’s strengths are its story, characters, atmosphere, and art, not its puzzles. And, hey, sometimes that’s fine. I’ve replayed it more times than any other adventure game, which is likely a result of that sharper focus and pared-down interface. But I can totally see some people, particularly if they have no nostalgia for it, feeling short-changed.
As for the remastered visuals, it’s clear Double Fine’s artists have put a lot of effort into repainting every location and cutscene. It’s handsome enough, albeit with a few backgrounds that look a bit smudgy and rushed. But, honestly, the original pixel art looks nicer to me, and I ended up playing with the old graphics and the remixed audio, which sounds fantastic. There are some nice extras for fans too, including previously unseen concept art by LucasArts legend Peter Chan and a fun, laid-back developer commentary.
The Mine Road sequence, in which you take part in Road Rash-style bike fights, has aged fairly terribly, and the sluggish mouse controls make getting through it a chore. But occasional bad minigame aside, I enjoyed returning to Full Throttle. Its stylish, Mad Max-inspired world of bikers, murderous truckers, and battery-powered bunnies is full of charm and personality, and the story, although short-lived, is entertaining until the bittersweet end.