Hector: Badge of Carnage is a trilogy of adventure games, the first of which was originally developed by Irish developer Straandlooper and exclusively released on iOS last June, but now Telltale’s taken up the series and has released the first (the subject of this review) on PC/Mac and will finish out the trilogy later this year, doing the development and writing themselves.
Episode 1: We Negotiate With Terrorists doesn’t seem to show many signs of being originally developed for iOS. It’s a fairly standard point-and-click in terms of controls, so I guess Telltale did a good job porting it.
But just being a decent port of an iOS title doesn’t say much for the game’s overall quality. Does the game manage to be fun, or is it a convoluted, crude mess? Hit the jump to find out.
Episode 1 follows Hector, the drunk, perverted, middle-aged detective who doesn’t seem to care for his job, as he has to fulfill a terrorist’s demands, lest the entire police force be gunned down in a hostage crisis. He’s the only one in the Clapper’s Wreake police force (“the town that takes the ‘Great’ out of Britain,” as is mentioned in the game) with the negotiation skills to clean up the town, as the terrorist forces him to.
The plot’s nothing especially interesting on the surface; it primarily functions as a reason to meet more characters and hear more witty one-liners. Aside from a few, most of the characters are rather forgettable, functioning merely as devices for a puzzle or transmitters of funny lines. Most are one-offs, but a few that stick around are quite enjoyable, like the crippled veteran in the clock tower or the ludicrously obese man who runs the pornography shop.
From those characters, you can probably tell what sort of humor this game relies on. Pretty much all of the humor is crude in some fashion, and it alternates between being funny and falling flat regularly, but when it’s done right, it can be quite hilarious. The game definitely knows how crude it is, and it celebrates it with enough gusto that it’s very entertaining. Do you find tying a shoestring to a used condom to fish a paperclip out of a toilet funny? If so, you’ll enjoy most of the humor in this game. The game makes use of British slang constantly (it was originally developed in Northern Ireland, after all), which may prevent some from getting the jokes, but it’s nothing some Googling won’t solve.
Like the puzzle previously mentioned, the gameplay can get quite convoluted at times. A lot of the puzzles rely on taking notice of everything in the environment, and many things that can be added to your inventory just look like part of the background. Clicking on everything is mandatory, as it is with most point-and-click adventure games of this variety. It’s only really an issue when you have to go through long dialogue trees to solve a puzzle. A few of the characters let you speak to them, and going through long conversations is generally necessary to solving a puzzle. A lot of the dialogue in these conversations is entertaining, but if you mess up at some points in them, you’ll have to hear it all again.
The puzzles are quite good at keying into jokes, and many of the solutions are ludicrous to the degree of hilarity. Going through the rigmarole of finding the solution is generally worth it, considering the results. This rigmarole can be reduced with the in-game hint system though. It’s nothing especially unique. It’s pretty much just a menu of questions like, “How do I fix X,” which leads to the individual hints for that part of the plot. Nothing complex, but it helps at times, due to how convoluted certain puzzles are. You won’t be punished for using the hint system, but most of the hints insult the player quite hilariously.
The game clocks in at about three to four hours, depending on how good you are at the puzzles. A good length for an episodic adventure game, especially one that’s only $10. Not a bad price for a game that’ll last you an afternoon.
Unfortunately, the game seems to suffer from some technical difficulties. It froze up on me multiple times, but it wasn’t much of an issue resetting it, and the game autosaves constantly. It didn’t take much away from the experience, but it was definitely annoying. I have no idea how common this issue is, but I did encounter it during my playthrough.
Despite some technical issues, overly-difficult puzzles, and occasionally poor humor, Episode 1 is an entertaining adventure game overall. It’s hard to lodge too many complaints at it, considering it’s only $10. A great value for those of you who enjoy adventure games and are used to the process, but it’s kind of a hassle for casual players, even with the hint system. If you like jokes about blow-up-dolls and heroin addicts and can handle some tricky puzzles, Hector Episode 1 is more than worth your time.
I look forward to seeing Telltale’s take on the series when they release the next two games in the trilogy.