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Mattamus Prime avatar 9:44 AM on 05.31.2008  (server time)
Classic Case: Full Throttle

(Classic Case is a feature where I take a retro game and give a retrospective on it. Hopefully it will inspire you to give these gems a second go)

There are a few game designers out there that we can all count on to deliver high quality games or experiences. Ken Levine, Michel Ancel, and Hideo Kojima to name just a few. But another name I don't hear not nearly enough is Tim Schafer. Schafer created some of the best adventure games of the 90s, including helping write The Secret of Monkey Island, Co-Developing Day of the Tentacle, and everyone's favorite psychic Raz from Psychonauts.

But his first game has project lead and writer, was Full Throttle.

Full Throttle follow's the story of Ben Throttle, leader of the Polecats biker gang, in a dark apocalyptic future. (His name was stated as Ben Whatsisname in the manual to avoid legal action from the creators of Biker Mice from Mars, who had a character named Throttle.) Ben and his gang are driving down Highway 9 when they encounter a white hovercraft limousine. Ben plows over the limousine, which in turn draws the attention of the occupant, Malcolm Corley, CEO of Corley Motors, the last manufacturer of motorcycles in the country.

Corley decides to follow the biker's to their hangout, The Kickstand, and minutes later is mingling with Ben, telling old tales when Corley was a biker. Ben is then pulled aside by Adrian Ripburger, vice president of Corley Motors, who asks Ben to escort Corley to the shareholders meeting at Corley Headquarters. Ben refuses and Ripburger decides to knock Ben out, telling the Polecats that they have taken the job.

After waking up, Ben finds his gang gone and his bike tampered with. After pulling a wheelie , his front wheel falls off and he is taken to a small town and meets, Maureen, a mechanic who decides to help Ben, he just needs to find replacement parts, and this forms the game's first set of serious puzzles.

After Ben gets his bike working again, he catches up with the Polecats, and witnesses Ripburger killing Corley. The murder is soon pinned on Ben and the Polecats, and Ben needs to find a way to clear the Polecats names, and stop Ripburger from turning Corley Motors into a minivan manufacturer.

I don't want to give away what happens after that, but the story is very engaging and fun. The game showcases the sense of humor and awe that permeated most Lucasarts games of the era, but also injected with Schafer's signature brand of character development. Every character in the game is expressed perfectly. Even character's who only have a few lines of dialog feel like they have their own personality and history, just based on the art and voice acting.

The game ran on the SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) engine, and took the engine to new heights. Instead of having multiple icons for different actions, you had one cursor which would change form when you passed over something that you could interact with. You could then hold left click, and bring up a radial menu with a fist(use, hit), a skull with eyes(examine), mouth( taste, talk) or a boot (kick). You then click what you want to do and Ben would perform the action. Right clicking pulled up your inventory, so you can select your item, then drag it to an area. This left the screen clean of any HUDs or on screen text, letting the environments and characters speak for themselves.

The game also sported action sequences, in which you would ride down Highway 9, like the driving sequences in Sam and Max Hit the Road, and you could catch up to other bikers and engage in battles with chains, planks, and other weapons. These action sequences are the weakest part of the game, but can be skipped simply.

Also, the game is painfully short. It can be beaten in about 2 hrs or less if you know where to go and what to do, and not skip the cut scenes. But most of Lucasarts adventure games were like this, relying on the player to be stumped by the puzzles, and provide a majority of the game time.

Yet, Full Throttle holds up remarkably well. After I went back to play it, even though I knew what to do, I still laughed at the jokes, and was just marveled at how well every character is just fleshed out. It's one of the best looking SCUMM games, and a testament to a bygone era of graphic adventures. If you can get ScummVM and not download a copy or buy yourself one off of ebay, I suggest you do. It's still funny, still relevant, and still fun as hell.

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