Hector, the crude British detective from developer Straandlooper, has returned to the PC for Episode 2 of his point-and-click adventure. Unfortunately, the episode provides too few humorous moments, features puzzles that are often more frustrating than they are challenging, and drags on a little too long.
This review will include some spoilers for Episode 1, so make sure you play it before you read on—after checking out our Episode 1 review to see if it’s worth your money, of course.
When we last left Hector, he was hot on the trail of a terrorist who had holed up in an old building with hostages, picking off police officers with a sniper rifle. The overweight, drunken, profanity-spewing investigator finally managed to get into the same room as the sniper rifle, only to discover that it was being controlled by a computer, not by the terrorist directly.
In Episode 2, “Senseless Acts of Justice,” your first project is to escape from the room without being blown to bits by the rifle, after which point you find yourself trapped in the building. Hector has to escape by blowing up a toilet. To get the parts for the bomb, he needs to cooperate with his bumbling sidekick, Lambert, who’s outside. From there, you head to the police station to follow up on a few leads.
Naturally, an exploding toilet provides plenty of excuses for, well, toilet humor, but this time around, the jokes just aren’t as funny. Episode 1 was a perfect fit for those of us who are old enough to play “mature” titles but are immature enough to enjoy them. As I wrote in my Episode 1 review, “how many games let you try to convince a pornography-obsessed blind man that a dead heroin addict is a blow-up doll?” However, in Episode 2, it seems as if the developers worked off the assumption that anything gross is by definition funny.
Gone are the wit and irreverence that made the first adventure so great as a guilty pleasure. Even when you show up at the town “gentleman’s club,” the cleverest thing you do is take a picture of a man with a morbidly obese stripper so you can show it to his wife. The fact that there’s a morbidly obese stripper in the frame is supposed to prove, in and of itself, how hilarious and offbeat the Hector universe is.
The lack of humor stems, in part, from a lame cast of characters. In the first episode, we met a bunch of Ali G-style British lowlifes, but here all we get are a smattering of town residents who aren’t particularly interesting. There is a street urchin with a hook for a hand, as well as a sexually aggressive lady who owns a store that sells both firearms and women’s beauty products, but the rest of the cast is quite bland.
It’s a big problem that Hector’s shtick is growing old so soon, because storytelling is important in the point-and-click genre. While a few point-and-click games have puzzles that are so well-designed that they can overshadow a mediocre plot, they’re few and far between, and Hector is not one of them. The first episode was about average in this area, and this one is considerably worse. Most of the puzzles are simple matters of collecting items and then trying to find a place for them. Several of them are so unintuitive or obscure that you’ll almost certainly require the help of the (poorly designed) hint system. And while there’s one interesting plot twist, most of the story developments exist solely to push you into the next puzzle.
All of this is a drag, and it keeps on dragging for longer than it should. The PR folks at Telltale (Hector’s PC publisher) are promoting the fact that Episode 2 is twice as long as the first one—I’d say it’s closer to one-and-a-half times as long—but the added length is a burden, not a bonus. In fact, the game’s sheer size, with three separate plot threads you have to resolve simultaneously, is one reason the puzzles can be so convoluted. “Senseless Acts of Justice” would benefit immensely if some of the weaker puzzles were trimmed out, or if the unfunny bits of dialogue were kept to a minimum. I don’t mind when a game episode ends after just a couple of hours, especially if those hours are highly entertaining, but I don’t have much patience for lackluster gameplay.
The presentation hasn’t changed much since Episode 1. The graphics are still drawn in the same simple but personality-heavy style, the voice acting is still competent, and the sound effects and music still complement the disgusting jokes and hard-boiled-detective vibe perfectly. The only significant difference I noticed is a fairly embarrassing visual glitch; in a few scenes toward the end, large black boxes started covering up some of the characters, and one time the game even crashed. Telltale really needs to patch that; while it doesn’t affect the gameplay too much, it looks unprofessional.
Hector has a hilariously rancid personality that few point-and-click characters can match, and when the writing is good, his antics can be highly amusing. However, the writing in Episode 2 is simply not up to snuff, and it brings the production down—especially when paired with boring puzzles and a story that goes on for too long. Hopefully Episode 3 will do a better job of concluding the story than Episode 2 does of continuing it.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
The same cartoonish look we’ve grown to love. 4.1 Control
Point. Click. Repeat. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voice acting, music, and sound effects all work well. 3.2 Play Value
The jokes aren’t nearly as funny this time around, and some of the puzzles are frustrating. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best