Picture the scene — a dusty highway, an edgy motorcycling hero fighting a corrupt corporation he takes down from within, a dieselpunk world of smog and weird technology. Bizarre minigames in abundance, a tight and well paced story rich in varied locations, all leading to an abrupt ending that leaves a strange taste in the mouth and, nonetheless, the urge to play the whole gleefully odd thing again from the top, just to experience it one more time.
Move over, Cloud Strife — this ain’t about you. No hairspray or giant claymore swords required here — this is Ben Throttle we’re talking about.
Adventure game lovers everywhere joined Double Fine, itself a company founded by LucasArts alumni, in marking the 25th anniversary of Full Throttle on 30th April. This is an adventure game with bite, one that — as an excellent Retronauts podcast on the game alludes to — is as rich in 1990s technological wow-factor as it is a product of its time that could just never, ever be made the same way again.
And much like Final Fantasy VII, to which I’m comparing the title for numerous reasons, it’s held up and lauded despite, or perhaps because of, its strange flaws and idiosyncrasies today. And like that Japanese RPG from the PS1, Full Throttle is a game I bounced off at first, before taking the time to sink into its unique and offbeat genius.
Throttle & Strife
To make an immensely long story short, Final Fantasy VII largely succeeded globally because it took a niche videogame genre and marketed it almost as though it were a blockbuster movie. The game was certainly put together like one, with setpieces that remain talking points to this day, and with use of 3D and cool-looking characters that crossed the streams of games, movies and entertainment as a whole.
It’s also the biggest selling entry in its franchise to date for those reasons. Turning back to Full Throttle, then, and taking those same ideas in mind — hugely cinematic presentation, experimental 3D modelling techniques blending in with a 2D landscape, a cynical hero unlike anything else in the genre at the time, and innovations in interface, minigame integration and overall pacing and design… Full Throttle went on to become far and away the biggest selling LucasArts adventure game by a wide margin, just like FF7 did versus its contemporaries. And it did so by utilising a very similar development approach, two years earlier than the PlayStation smash hit, and likewise attracted players to try a game genre that had otherwise always been niche — perhaps without fully realising they’d been enticed to do it.
With its full spoken dialogue, smooth remaster, effortlessly charming yet grounded protagonist — voiced by Ben Conrad in a way that’s cool without trying too hard and faking it by the way, unlike some spiky-haired Mr Strife I could mention — and puzzles that perplex the player yet often have more sensible solutions than many… Full Throttle has aged with a quiet confidence that makes it timeless.
Did I find it tough to get into at first, simply for how ballsy and different it is to the adventure game norm? Sure I did, back in the day. Is it a bit on the short side? Well, of course, yeah, but isn’t that the done thing with games now anyway because none of us have time for anything?
It’s a precious, priceless game that roared to fortune for good reason, and remains a curiosity courting contemplation to this day. It may not have been the game that first showed me how games and movies can mix — that was another 1995 classic — but Full Throttle and its squinty characters, dryly witty writing and uproarious tales of rebellion are a road trip well worth taking.