Hector is my kind of detective. He's lazy, not very sharp and spends a good chunk of time in little more than his tighty-whities. And yet, time and time again, Hector is the best man for the job. He's the very definition of a lovable loser; the type of classic game character we used to see a lot of in adventure games of the 1980s and 90s. He's a breath of fresh air at a time when Telltale Games needs it the most.
Unlike Sam & Max, Back to the Future and the recently released (and hugely disappointing) Jurassic Park game, Hector: Badge of Carnage is not developed by an in-house Telltale team. Instead it's Straandlooper, an Irish game company best known for 30 episodes of Luke Spotisode on the iOS platform. Here we're given a traditional point and click adventure game, similar to classic PC games like Full Throttle, Leisure Suit Larry and Maniac Mansion. While the core gameplay hasn't changed much in the last few decades, the foreign sense of humor is a welcome change of pace from Sam & Max and Monkey Island.
You play Detective Inspector Hector, a cranky character who patrols Clappers Wreake. Hector is no fan of Clappers Wreake, and for good reason. There's nothing redeeming about this crime-infested cesspool. The air is toxic, the criminals are dumb and the city park looks more like a garbage dump. Needless to say, you're going to need something stronger than alcohol to make it through a day of defending this toilet bowl.
It would seem that we have a mad sniper on the loose in Clappers Wreake and he's holed up in an apartment building. This would be the perfect job for Hector ... if it wasn't for the fact that he was passed out in a police cell. He wakes up to empty liquor bottles, used condoms and the most disgusting toilet this side of Scotland. In other words, it's another typical day for the Detective Inspector. Once he's picked the lock and put on some pants, our overweight hero is off to safely negotiate with the sniper. If only he could find a working car.
In the first episode, We Negotiate With Terrorists, we learn that the sniper isn't looking for money or prizes, but rather wants to help clean up this disgusting city. We do that by destroying a local porn shop, fixing the town clock and paying to help clean up the park. This will send Hector on a wild mission that will take him all over the city picking up items, solving puzzles and, well, negotiating with terrorists.
In episode two, Senseless Acts of Justice, we are still hot on the trail of the mysterious sniper. After re-enacting the first episode's cliffhanger, Hector is left with a few juicy clues to the criminal's real identity. Our hero embarks on a cross-city trek to follow the clues, investigating a gun-crazy nail salon, an old church-turned-sex club and a bloody disgusting butchery. The clues eventually lead him to a revelation; Hector finally knows who the mad gunman is. Unfortunately, tracking him down isn't going to be as easy as he thinks.
Episode three, Beyond Reasonable Doom, picks up right where the last episode ended. Hector wakes up in a mysterious new location, a large septic tank-cum-death trap set up by the evil sniper. In this episode we discover the madman's dastardly plan, which involves hitting Clapper Wreake with a bio-chemical attack. It's up to our bumbling crime fighter to save the day and bring in the perk. Can Hector stay sober long enough to do the right thing? Find out in the exciting conclusion of Badge of Carnage.
All three episodes take us on an unfortunate tour of Clapper Wreakes. In fact, by the end of the third episode I was ready to avoid foreign travel altogether. Hector avoids some of pitfalls found in early episodes of other Telltale adventure games. While there are a lot of repeating characters from episode to episode, the developers didn't overuse the backdrops. The game does repeat a few, but a majority of the time you're exploring someplace you've never been before. This becomes an advantage, as the increasingly depraved landscape is the most interesting part of this series.
The point and click gameplay isn't going to win over any new fans, as it's exactly the same as games from twenty years ago. You pick up seemingly obscure items strewn about the levels and combine them with other bizarre objects. The game uses the tried and true adventure game logic, which isn't always the same thing you would do in real life. The game doesn't make a big deal about what items you can pick up, so it's easy to completely miss the much-needed puzzle piece. Still, these are the types of complaints you've heard about graphic adventures for years. The trade-off is an exceptionally well written (and often crude) game with characters that will stick with you long after the credits roll.
After spending so much time with Telltale's usual polygonal characters, it was nice to see something more two-dimensional. The characters and backgrounds all look hand-drawn, each with just enough detail to remind players how disgusting everything in this game is. I was also impressed with the sense of humor, which is decidedly darker than what the adventure game giant is known for. Maybe it's the art style or the fact that they all have accents, but it feels like Straandlooper gets away with some extraordinarily rude material. Either way, I like it.
Hector: Badge of Carnage may not stray far enough from the usual point and click formula to interest burned-out gamers, but it's a nice change of pace for those still excited about the genre. The characters are fun to be around and the humor is almost always spot-on. Some of the puzzles are a little too obscure for their own good, but the story is strong enough to keep you motivated through those moments. Hector is a great alternative to the Tellatle's other releases, especially Jurassic Park.
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