Rocktober 12th: Full Throttle

October 12, 2009

This is it; Tim Schafer’s first foray into video game design.  After writing for Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle, LucasArts gave the greenlight for the veteran director to create his own game.  Inspired by Mad Max and the 1950s era teenage rebellion, Shafer set out to create an adventure game that highlighted corporate greed and personal freedom.

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Set in a near future dystopian world, Ben “Whatsisname” is the leader of the biker gang Polecats in a world where hovercars are taking over the market.  After witnessing the murder of the last manufacturer of motorcycles, Ben crosses the country as a fugitive outlaw to clear his name and keep the evil vice-president Adrian Ripburger (voiced by Mark Hamill) from taking over the company.  Along the way he encounters rival biker gangs in the form of speed junkies, steroid pumped freaks, and techno-freaks.

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One of Full Throttle’s defining aspects is the way puzzles are handled.  Unlike most adventure games at the time whose puzzles revolved around combining objects into strange ways, Full Throttle’s world was designed around logical solutions.  Ben wasn’t required to find “the magic foo” to open a door, he could just kick it down.  Solutions to puzzles often relied around environmental actions like hiding in the darkness to avoid a patrolling gunboat.

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An additional gameplay elements included a lengthy road battling section.  As Ben traveled down the highway he fought against rival bike gangs.  Exchanging punches and kicks earned him new weapons to better defeat his enemies.

Like all of Schafer’s titles, Full Throttle’s script and animation stood out for its excellence.  Beautiful hand animated sprites tied together with an sharp and darkly humorous script created an animated storyline like no other game.  The characters were backed by professional actors like the late Roy Conrad and Mark Hamill, a first for a LucasArts game.

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Another first for LucasArts was the soundtrack.  Rather than develop the music inhouse, LucasArts sprung for 3rd party band The Gone Jackals to compose the game’s hard rock soundtrack.  As a result, Full Throttle stands out of LucasArts other titles for its unique atmosphere and production values.

Full Throttle arguably was the beginning of Schafer’s career leading up to his magnum opus Grim Fandango and culminating with the creation of his company Double Fine.  It embodies the spirit of Schafer’s love for the rock and roll universe and elements in the game are present in all his titles.  Besides being one of LucasArts finest 2D titles, Full Throttle stands in video game history as what a team of workers can do when given creative freedom.

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