Hector Badge of Carnage Ep 1 Review
In the shopworn, hackneyed, cliche-filled world of police drama, the last thing anyone needs is another brooding, beard-stubbled, lantern-jawed cop. I’ve always said that what's really needed to keep the wheels of fake justice turning is a lazy, noxious, rude, sarcastic booze hound with a badge. Amazingly, that's just what we get from Irish developer Straandlooper and publisher Telltale Games through their hilariously crude serial adventure, Hector: Badge of Carnage.
The series’ first episode is set in the unfortunately-named English town of Clappers Wreake. Although the town's got a reputation as a crime-ridden dump, things really go awry when a sniper takes up residence in a rundown building and starts picking off local police. Unable to appease the maniac, the police turn to Detective Inspector Hector, a guy who's more likely to be found sleeping off the previous night's binge than collaring a suspect. In fact, that's where we first meet Hector—lying pantless and hungover in a cell at the police station—and it's where we first learn how the exceedingly raunchy hero interacts with his world.
Mechanically, the game plays like most other PC adventures: lots of clicking and double clicking. You click to move, to talk to people, to pick things up, to use things, to combine things and to comment on things. That last is the most fun by far since Badge of Carnage's main strength is its uproariously off-color dialog. It's worth it to click on everything in every scene, even multiple times, to hear what Hector has to say about it. And even if the more obscure English references will probably go over the heads of most Yanks, the voice actor's delivery still does the job of conveying the humor. Regardless of translation issues, American Anglophiles will no doubt be won over by the game's cast of expert actors who, according to their accents, are of every possible U.K. stamp.
In addition to great acting and riotous dialog, the game has a stylish 2D cartoon look, which is no surprise since the creators of the series come from an animation studio in Northern Ireland. Straandlooper (which, according to the sly blurb on the Straandlooper website is Afrikaans for “beach walker”—beings that are further described to be “thoughtful, playful, naturally spiritual people, full of ideas...whom everyone else regarded as useless freaks.” ) is obviously full of talented people with a collectively twisted sense of humor. The town of Clappers Wreake is populated by an unforgettable collection of amusingly grotesque characters that make Inspector Hector look like an church-going underwear model. This motley bunch not only look weird, they say and do some fairly shocking things (by adventure game standards). No spoilers here, but in one section in particular featuring a sassy plump prostitute, well...let's just say there are some things you just can't unsee.
Although this first episode only has you moving back and forth among four main locations, there's still plenty of visual interest and depth of gameplay. Badge of Carnage doesn't bother with any cliched sliding-tile contrivances; all the game’s puzzles are strictly based on reasonable (well, what passes for reasonable in Clappers Wreake) problems that must be solved. And rather than moving in a straight line from solution to solution, all the puzzles in the game are intertwined, requiring you to revisit areas and re-interview people you've already talked to. This could be annoying but it isn’t, since despite the game's claim of “ludicrous puzzle logic”, it all makes its own kind of seedy sense. Experienced adventure gamers will rarely need to use the hint button and it's a good thing too, because although the game's hint system gives help in the form of both tiered hints and a detailed walkthrough, it also berates you unmercifully for needing them.
While for the most part the game is a total hoot, occasional bugs affect its polish. Once or twice, you'll notice a missing voice line and it's possible (when clicking an arrow in front of the police station) for the cursor to completely vanish, forcing you to quit the game. Worst of all is that upon exiting to the main menu and once again clicking Play, the game shuts down rather than starting up again. These issues are mildly annoying but in the scheme of things, don't do much to mar the experience.
Hector Badge of Carnage: We Negotiate With Terrorists is a great little adventure that's often shocking, frequently offensive and always hilarious. Despite (or perhaps because of) its gross out moments and unabashedly low-brow humor, it's one of the most entertaining, unique adventure games most of us have seen in longer than we’d like to remember. In addition to its PC release, it also appears on iPhone, PS3, iPad and Mac so adventure gamers, there’s no good excuse for missing out on it.