As a 30-something gamer that grew up on the format, I’m thrilled that point and click adventure games have received a lot of attention lately. Telltale Games is largely to thank for this and their newest title, Hector: Badge of Carnage, follows the successful episodic format. In the first episode of this series by developer Straandlooper, entitled We Negotiate with Terrorists, we are introduced to Detective Inspector Hector and the British town of Clappers Wreake.
Hector’s brand of humor hearkens back to the days of Leisure Suit Larry. Badge of Carnage is brimming with saucy language and obscene inventory items. The comedy is hit or miss, at times feeling forced and, at others, scoring a direct hit on the funny bone. Clappers Wreake is a dirty cess pool of a town where prostitutes loiter in front of the police station, old ladies carry tasers, and the local adult video store is a booming business. The game opens with a hostage situation and a pile of dead constables. Hector is sleeping off a hangover, with a lit cigarette in hand, in a locked jail cell. As with most point and click adventures, accomplishing even the simplest tasks involves solving mind-bending puzzles, starting with a fishing expedition in a toilet.
Throughout Hector’s quest to meet the demands of the hostage-taking sniper, he encounters a colorful cast of miscreants whom he must appease. Most impressively, every character is voiced by the same actor. While this has certainly been done before, it has never been accomplished so masterfully. The dialog is filled with clever cultural references including a nod to Doctor Who that fans will love. The puzzles range from blatantly obvious to deviously challenging. There is even one segment that culminates with a “who’s on first” type conversation that had my head spinning.
Should you find yourself stuck, Badge of Carnage has a very well designed hint system. In addition to a character that provides gentle nudges, there is a more in-depth help menu that players can delve into. The script for the hints is well-written, protecting players from finding more than they want to. It’s worth checking out the tips just for the chuckle.
Visually, Hector has a hand drawn look that is an attractive contrast to the foul language. The juxtaposition works. The dialog is entirely captioned within the frame, rather than beneath it, giving the game a storybook feel that sets it apart from the rest of Telltale’s library.
Unfortunately, I did run into a number of reproducible bugs. There are bits of unvoiced dialog and poor syncing. Worse, I ran into game-breaking halts that forced me to shut the game down and re-open it. Thankfully, none of these stood in the way of completing the episode and, thanks to the flawless autosave system, I never lost progress.
It also bears mentioning that Hector is available for iOS devices (published directly by Straandlooper) for $3.99. The full retail price for this episode for PC/Mac is $9.99 and the content appears to be identical. If you are content playing on your iPhone or iPad, it’s something to keep in mind. Whichever way you prefer to play, Hector is worth checking out- once the kids are out of the room. Make no mistake, Badge of Carnage is for mature audiences.
Episodes 2 and 3 of Hector: Badge of Carnage are due this fall. I look forward to taking the trip back to Clappers Wreake to resolve the cliffhanger at the end of We Negotiate with Hostages. Maybe by then, Hector will have sobered up and the bugs will be ironed out.
Review copy provided by publisher.