Review: Hector: Badge of Carnage – Episode 3: Beyond Reasonable Doom
Straandlooper’s episodic adventure game concludes (for now) in this, the latest episode of Hector: Badge of Carnage. It’s, well, an episodic adventure game, so don’t expect anything majorly new. It’s pretty much what you’d expect the next installment to be; more puzzles, an increase in puzzle difficulty, and a conclusion to this plot arc of the Hector universe (Hectorverse).
It’s a surprisingly good story conclusion, but it’s marred by some design issues here and there, much like the rest of the episodes are.
Episode 2 ended with a… bit of a cliffhanger, to say the least. They do a good job of continuing directly where it left off, and the pacing of that part of the game is really well-done, though it eventually slips back into the exploration and puzzles that Episode 2 mostly focused on, albeit in a much more condensed area. The plot has some good twists, but there are parts of it that feel like they were added in because they wanted the last episode to be longer than the other ones, but the ending itself is satisfying, despite… there not being any real sense of character progression. That’s not really the point of the characters, so it’s not something that should’ve been expected, I guess.
There is a lot more variety in areas in this installment; it’d be a pretty big spoiler to mention the examples, but you get to see some new areas (with much different color palates) and revisit some old ones, and the use of older environments is done well, feeling more like a clever throwback than just recycling of assets.
As you’d expect, the humor that this series is known for is back in full force, though it’s done much better than in Episode 2 (i.e. none of the jokes are really discomforting). There are also some good moments when the humor doesn’t rely on crudeness, which really makes them stand out (in a good way, of course). Though there isn’t really any character development, Straandlooper’s development of their style of humor is noticeable. With some refinement, they could easily match Telltale’s best (though in a… different way, if you get my drift).
Dialogue trees are, like in 2, much less important overall. They’re actually used barely at all, aside from one sequence, and that sequence uses the system very well. The hint system is also back, in the exact same format as before; you can ask your partner for hints, you can ask the game for (much less vague) hints, or you can skip directly to a step-by-step list of what to do.
Unfortunately, there are parts of this game that seem to require the hints. There’s a logic to the puzzles, but there are certain puzzles that are impossible to do despite you knowing what to do for them; you have to go do another puzzle (or start another arbitrary sequence before you really need to) in order to move the current puzzle forward. It’s not all that frustrating once you figure it out, but the scripting/design of those sequences could’ve been much less abstruse and arbitrary.
Overall, the game clocks in at about five hours, one hour longer than Episode 2. Like I mentioned before, the pacing of the game makes certain parts of the game feel drawn out, so the increase in length doesn’t really matter all that much.
The flaws of the series’ design continue to show in the conclusion, but the story’s conclusion is well-done, and the humor is refined (not as in “high class”), so I’d say it’s a good way to end this arc of games. Straandlooper have shown that they can write a good game and spin a good yarn, they just need to figure out some things about making the puzzles/design more fun and less arbitrary.
If you didn’t jump on the season pass back when Episode 2 came out, you’re stuck paying $20 for the whole season now. Honestly, it’s a little steep for most people, but if you enjoy adventure games and can stomach some (very) crude humor, it’s not a bad way to blow some time. At the very least, it’s great to see someone taking risks on making an M-rated adventure game nowadays, and Straandlooper have learned how to sort out the M-rated bits well. I look forward to seeing what they produce in the future.
- Title: Hector: Badge of Carnage – Episode 3: Beyond Reasonable Doom
- Platform Reviewed: PC
- Developer: Straandlooper
- Publisher: Telltale Games
- Release Date: September 23, 2011
- MSRP: $19.99 for the full season
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this title was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.