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Full Throttle Remastered feels like a supernova. It's bombastic, head-turning, and holds your attention during the brief time it flashes. The classic adventure game holds up today, but, unlike other Double Fine games, it doesn't benefit from a remaster. The original was already as good as it needed to be. It's an entertaining tale of road-rash and intrigue that's fun while it lasts.
Full Throttle Remastered is a heavy metal tale of conspiracy and grit starring a biker named Ben. Framed for murder and on the trail of the mastermind behind it all, Ben traverses the open road to meet colorful characters and solve a host of puzzles.
Developer Double Fine Productions has turned their remaster process into a precision affair at this point. 2009's The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, a remaster from LucasArts before the studio shut down, provided the blueprint with retouched graphics, a cleaned-up musical score, and in-depth developer commentary. Double Fine took that methodology and ran with it for other LucasArts titles. The same revisions and features form the core of Full Throttle, but not quite as notably. The changes to Monkey Island offered a drastically different experience, while the overhauls in 2015's Grim Fandango Remastered showed that game's impressive artistry in detail. Full Throttle Remastered's feel unnecessary.
This is not necessarily a fault of the remastering approach, which includes fully redrawn art assets. Rather, it speaks to the inherent beauty of the original game. Full Throttle is a mood piece inspired by films like Heavy Metal and Easy Rider, full of ripping metal music and high quality pixel art. The remaster's ability to toggle to an updated, painterly art style with retouched music is appreciated but ultimately extraneous. The updated version is brighter and more cartoony than the pixilated original, losing some of its grit and edge. You can play the remastered version in 'classic' mode and avoid the updated version altogether, and it's hard to find a reason not to.
Full Throttle doesn't benefit from updated bells and whistles; it's a utilitarian game befitting its no-nonsense protagonist. LucasArts adventure games often boasted intricate and outlandish puzzles. Day of the Tentacle included a time traveling puzzle where players convinced the Founding Fathers to redesign the American flag so another character could disguise themselves as a monster. Grim Fandango featured an intricate sequence to determine the winner of a giant cat race. Full Throttle mostly involves practical decisions. You'll use a pipe to break a lock off a chest or use raw meat to distract a vicious junkyard dog.
This focus on direct solutions gives the game a decidedly rough tone and gives Ben a distinct personality among his adventure game peers. On a thematic level, the puzzle design accomplishes a great deal while avoiding the excess trial and error of other titles. However, it comes with a cost: Full Throttle moves at a breakneck pace. While this makes sense for a game about blazing down the highway, it means that characters and set pieces are somewhat unremarkable. You move from one to the next quickly, and you're far more likely to remember the frustrating parts when the game's over, such as an extended bike combat segment. The rest of the game feels like a blur, and it ends as quickly as it started. Most players will finish in around five or six hours and never look back.
The end result is one of the weaker remasters in Double Fine's catalog. It doesn't reach the operatic heights of Grim Fandango, and it lacks the memorable puzzles of Monkey Island. Full Throttle is a rough and tumble game full of affection for the open road. It's a fun time full of fire, stunts, and fury. The remaster is a solid preservation of a classic title with some unnecessary additions.
Ben's story of highway justice holds up well and provides a suitable adventure game experience. It's not the cream of the crop and players might forget it in time. But in the moment? There's nothing better than the open road.