Friends: Do you fear the apocalypse? Do the anxieties of impending doom and a consequential world without any social institutions or discernable infrastructure have you feeling down?
You’re not alone.
After all, if the divinations of one particularly long-dead civilization are to be believed, there’ll be more than just chestnuts roasting on an open flame of hellfire and brimstone come December 21, 2012. Doubly concerning is the fact that this date coincides perfectly with the launch of the Eye-Abstergo telecommunications satellite—and that can surely be no coincidence.
But concern yourselves not, friends, for the looming fall of civilization as we know it needn’t be a bad thing. Rather, think of it as the opening up of some serious free time with which you can busy yourselves by taking up a new hobby, such as learning to ride a motorcycle or joining a motorcycle gang.
Say, that reminds me of an old point-and-click adventure game …
The year was 1995, and the once-formidable Windows 3.1 was rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
In preparation for its successor, our family computer at the time—a later-model IBM PS/2—had undergone a refit of sorts, which included the installation of a Sound Blaster sound card. Accompanied by the new hardware was a bonus media suite that featured a video game billed as a “heavy metal adventure.” As if that weren’t enough to entice a 13-year-old boy, the cover art boasted a leather-clad badass on a motorcycle narrowly outrunning a swelling inferno on his heels.
A brainchild of the now well-known Tim Schafer, the game was Full Throttle and I was sold.
Full Throttle plays like any point-and-click adventure of yore.
In classic fashion, players interact with objects, characters, and environments to solve puzzles and guide protagonist Ben Whatsisname through the treacherous perils of a post-apocalyptic landscape filled with bloodthirsty biker gangs and a few greedy corporate bigwigs.
Ben and his gang, the Polecats, fall victim to a conspiracy set in motion by central villain Adrian Ripburger to usurp ownership of Corley Motors, the last motorcycle manufacturer in the country.
Framed for the murder of Rip’s boss, Malcolm Corley, our down-but-not-out hero spends most of the game trying clear his good name and that of his jailed gang while attempting to get even. Along the way is the expected cast of colorful personalities who sometimes assist, and regularly hinder, Ben from achieving his goal.
A skull-adorned user interface allows use of Ben’s eyes, hands, feet, and mouth to communicate with his surroundings. Puzzles range from stimulating to straightforward, but even the humdrum ones won’t detract players from immersing themselves in the vibrant world around them.
There are too many reasons to call Full Throttle the consummate video game adventure, foremost which are its unforgettable characters and remarkable dialogue. The voice acting is top notch, and the late Roy Conrad’s performance as the rugged antihero Ben is no exception.
Conrad’s gravelly voice and temperate delivery of lines creates a brilliant concoction that can only be described as serene grit—and the character is indescribably memorable because of it.
The calculatingly cerebral Ripburger is brought to life by the icy pipes of Mark Hamill, who’s certainly no stranger to murderous villainy. Rip’s brainless goons Nestor and Bolus, respectively portrayed by Maurice LaMarche and Jack Angel, flawlessly compliment his devious intellect. The notable talents of Kath Soucie, Hamilton Camp, Bill Farmer, and others, too, make a sizable contribution to what makes Full Throttle so enjoyable.
What may serve Full Throttle best of all is its exceptional and, above all else, unique sense of humor.
Make no mistake about it, this is a meaningful adventure filled with the kinds of dark imagery that mark an unmistakable departure from some of its bubblier LucasArts-produced predecessors. The world of Full Throttle may be sparsely populated, but it’s unquestionably one without any shortage of violent bikers, savage motorcycle-topped brawls, ruthless bludgeoning, and numerous other mature overtones that would likely send Guybrush Threepwood scampering back to the Scumm Bar for another round of liquid courage.
And yet, despite the seriousness of its plot, this game is incredibly funny.
In fact, one of the most hilarious anecdotes in video game history can be found in Full Throttle, occurring when Ben tries to locate his friend Mo’s stolen welding torch inside the trailer of one Todd Newlan, also voiced by Hamill. Todd hurls every greaser-related insult he can muster during the exchange, while Ben tries just about everything to gain entry, including posing as a Mobile Manor Magazine salesman.
Why You Should Play It
Full Throttle is unquestionably a throwback to an age of gaming past with limited-to-no open-endedness.
Schafer of course went on to produce such hits a Psychonauts and Brütal Legend, while this lesser-known gem languished in obscurity and the gaming industry evolved. Though point-and-click adventure games have experienced somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, the genre doesn’t carry the anywhere near the kind of weight it once did with gamers—and yet I would argue this title serves as a great example as to why it should.
Full Throttle is a one-of-a-kind game that plays like a great movie. Though brief, it features a great narrative and is crammed with thought-provoking gameplay, tons of laughs, and some extraordinary characters. It’s one of the video games on my short list of all time favorites and, as such, I suggest you give this out-of-the-way classic a whirl if you’re ever fortunate enough to come across it.
You’ll not only be glad you did, you’ll also fear the apocalypse a little less.
If nothing else, Full Throttle demonstrates that our forthcoming societal destruction may very well be filled with new and exciting opportunities. As the love-struck musician blaring on Todd’s radio substantiates, “the population is greatly decreased and now the odds are greatly increased that I may someday get a chance to kiss your lips,” adding “I thank the Lord each day for the apocalypse!”