OutOfTheBit has shifted gears away from their classic arcade roots with the Super Arcade series and into a whole new cinematic endeavour with Full Void. The Wimbledon-based studio took their frustrations and worries from the mandated pandemic lockdowns a few years ago and the end result is this title. Full Void is a 2D puzzle platformer with a completely hand-drawn pixel art style to soak up.
The retro love the studio has is still ever present with Full Void, as the game takes some definite design cues from classic titles like Prince of Persia, Another World and Flashback. Is this a style that still has room for the creative innovation the 7-person studio strives for? Or is it a relic swimming in the void of time? Let’s get into it.
War of the Worlds
You play as a teenager currently free from the corrupt AI robots that roam the dystopian landscape you inhabit. From the outset, the story is vague, and you’re simply dropped into this world and told to go. Before you know it though, the environments you traipse through to avoid the evil AI do answer some of the questions you might have. Memories fade in during some scenes, showing you a contented past pre-AI that pertains to the central character. Once a part of a happy family, you’re now alone and on a mission to solve the mystery behind this dystopia.
The mystery is the driving force outside of the gameplay. It feels very much like Playdead’s games Limbo & Inside where the world’s pull is slowly giving you nuggets of information that sometimes opens your eyes, or at least gives you a peak behind the curtain as to what is really going on. Like the games mentioned, this story shows its true colours in the final act. I do wish there was a little more leading into the final act to entice your journey, but the brisk play time to beat it does soften that blow.
The story overall is decent, there’s a lot of subtle world-building on every screen you explore, making it a neat breadcrumb trail that slowly paints a picture. The end doesn’t quite pack the punch I think it wants to do, but I believe that’s from the pacing I mentioned. You will be left without all the facts, but the origins of the AI robots, the forms you see them take and your surroundings provide some thrilling apocalyptic sci-fi.
Fight The Power
With the enemies towering over you and environments being so hazardous, you are seconds from a fail screen at any moment. There’s no health bar or second chances as you’ll go to an instant fail state through a myriad of ways. Your only resource is your platforming abilities and your laptop that can hack terminals. This is where the classic inspiration fully comes to play as your character’s movements are extremely clunky.
I would often find myself holding one direction a fraction too long and I’ve fallen into a pit or hot steamed myself. Luckily the checkpoints are relatively forgiving, so I was never too far from my failure, but it would happen a couple of times because I was fighting with the controls. You have your directional buttons for movement, ‘X’ to jump and ‘O’ to interact, which makes for a simple execution in the bulk of the gameplay.
Precise timing as you jump from platforms or timing the protagonists clunk to avoid environments is one of the main ways the puzzles present themselves – another is the hacking mechanic. In some areas, you’ll have a terminal that can manipulate the machinery on screen. As you interact with the terminal, a grid will overlay on your screen to signify the space to aid you in the directions you’ll be moving said machinery.
The grid lightens the trial-and-error nature of this mechanic, making it feel more seamless and less stressful in the process. Especially when the movement is classically painful, precise and sometimes the sole reason for my failures. The game is overall easy enough to the point where I can look past my reservations with the clunkiness for the most part. The aim was to capture the essence of classic 2D platformers and Full Void definitely facilitates.
Corrupt The System
As you boot up the game, you are hit with a wave of moody synth as atoms for the title card materialise to spell out ‘Full Void’. Right away I knew there was a strong style to the game and it only persisted from there. Despite the short length, there is a plethora of different areas that all have a great artistic quality to them. As I mentioned before, the game is completely hand-drawn pixel art, so to have so many varying environments that aren’t just a reskin as you progress felt very engaging.
The use of colour and lighting makes it feel grimy and overgrown. As it all takes place at night time, the ominous and sparse lighting attracts your eyes to potential environmental storytelling and it’s brilliant in execution. There’s an abundance of creepy and foreboding imagery that still keeps it relatively safe for younger audiences to enjoy. Whether it’s the gaze of the robot’s eye or the lit-up apartments showing people stuck to headsets, it all bolsters the strong dystopian sci-fi style Full Void goes for.
I do wish there was more soundtrack outside of the title screen as the ambience throughout most of the game is null-in-void. There’s very little that makes sound in the game to the point that I thought it might have been unintentional. There’s nothing to build tension, only the shrieks from the robots, which by that point is a tense scene regardless because they’re probably chasing you. It’s a strange choice to me to have it audibly desolate because there’s already enough desolation in the world to get that point across.
Exit The Void
I had fun with Full Void, OutOfTheBit understood their own assignment by bringing classic 2D platforming to modern platforms, and the more accessible puzzle mechanics also echo that. It is a very short game, with a runtime of only a couple of hours but the price reflects that and it’s fair considering just how much quality there is here if you’re a fan of this specific genre.
I wasn’t blown away by the story by any means, but the heart is there from the developers who felt so strongly about the themes it went for. The bespoke pixel art style only makes it better as I found the environments engaging throughout. If you like the classic platformers of yesteryear, minimalist yet effective storytelling and a great art style, Full Void is definitely one to pick up. I don’t think there’s much else for people who perhaps want to get into the genre, but the game is a good display of the modern platforming formula with an old-school twist.
Full Void perfectly encapsulates the classic 2D platformers for better or worse. Whilst the general gameplay is clunky, the puzzle-solving is simple yet fresh and keeps you engaged throughout its short runtime. The pixel art style brings an incredible atmosphere to this sci-fi dystopia, even if the story doesn’t reflect that overall, but there are some unique qualities in its presentation that make it special.
Full Void is available now on PS4 (review platform), Xbox Series One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy from the publisher.