Full Throttle came out in 1995, which means that it predates Steve Jobs’ return to Apple, the iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone. LucasArts no longer exists as a game company, and a long-rumored sequel to the game was shelved long before it was sold as a forgotten asset to Disney. And yet, here we are, playing it in the twenty-first century on our phones. Why this game?
Point-and-click adventures have returned to a degree of popularity thanks in no small part to the efforts of indie game companies and others like TellTale Games who appreciate the art of storytelling as an alternative to kill-fests, but why this game?
In a nutshell, Full Throttle is the story of the leader of a biker gang (wheeled bikes, thank you) who gets framed for the murder of the last great motorcycle maker. He has to get back on the road, find his gang, and clear his name.
One one level, Full Throttle is completely bonkers. It takes place in a mishmash of the future and the past where 1950s biker gangs travel deserted highways patrolled by cops in hover-cars, Mark Hamill voices a murderous vice-president, and the central conflict revolves around an engine company making minivans. The main character criticizes modern art, his main interactions are punching and kicking, and yet he’s presented as a voice of reason in a world gone mad.
And yet, it is, without a doubt, one of the greatest storytelling video games ever made. However crazy it gets, there is not a moment with the characters that does not feel completely motivated, and as the player explores the world, however strange it seems, every single thing makes sense. While the game is very funny, the humor is motivated by the reality of the characters rather than randomness.
Ben, the protagonist, can interact with his environment in some standard ways: talk, touch/punch, kick, and look. It’s this last one where the game can express its storytelling, as Ben’s sardonic outlook appraises every object he comes in contact with (“This would make a good mailbox… in hell,” he says dryly of a sculpture) or fails to make contact with.
Use the touch icon on your female mechanic and Ben replies “No thanks. She’s got a wrench.”
As Ben tries to get back on the road and unravel the plot in which he’s been snared, your job is to navigate the environmental puzzles that will move him on to the next act, all of which require a healthy amount of lateral thinking. Ben’s chopper needs gas, but climbing up a petroleum tower isn’t how you’ll get it. You’ll find the chain that opens the door to the junk yard, but that isn’t how you’ll get in. The puzzles are difficult to solve, but not completely illogical, and call for a lot of trial and error. This comes, after all, from an era when you went into a game expecting to spend hours trying to figure out how to PUT DRESS ON FISH.
The problem isn’t that the puzzles are hard, it’s that you might not be able to figure out exactly what you need to do at exactly the right moment. Objects that are crucial to the solution will fall to the ground, unnoticed. Places you need to move to onscreen at particular points aren’t marked as locations. In other words, you have to overthink the game, or, more likely, consult a walkthrough (and thank heavens this game now exists in a time of free online hints).
As Ben moves closer and closer to clearing his name and saving his gang, the nutso world of Full Throttle builds to a climax the likes of which we’re only now seeing in Hollywood blockbusters.
So Here It Is
Interface frustrations aside, Full Throttle Remastered is one of the most thrilling stories I’ve ever played, and the question as to why this game keeps being remastered and re-released is easy to answer; it has a smart, funny script with truly unique characters and a slightly askew world that’s fun to explore. I’m looking forward to playing it again in 20 years on my cybernetic implant.