When I saw that Hector: Badge of Carnage was a product of Telltale Games, I thought I knew exactly what to expect: cartoonish graphics, a light-hearted story with some mildly off-color humor, and point-and-click gameplay. Ten minutes later, the cartoonish graphics and point-and-click gameplay were certainly there—and I was trying to fish a paper clip out of a toilet with a condom I’d tied to a string. I needed the paper clip to pick the lock on my jail-cell door.
No, Hector is not your typical Telltale fare, in part because it was originally produced by Irish developer Straandlooper for the iPhone and iPod—Telltale merely helped the developers port it to PC and published it. It doesn’t have a cute and fuzzy demeanor, and it most certainly isn’t for kids. But under its gruff exterior, the first of three installments (“We Negotiate with Terrorists”) features the same simple puzzle-solving mechanics we’ve all grown to love. Or hate.
Hector is a grizzled, overweight detective in Great Britain, full of profane wisecracks and fed up with the decline of his city, Clappers Wreake. He’s also drunk most of the time, which presumably is why he starts the game in the aforementioned jail cell. In this first episode, a terrorist has taken several hostages and holed up in a dilapidated building, and he’s been taking out police negotiators with a sniper rifle. Once Hector escapes the drunk tank, finds a client for the grotesque prostitute who likes hanging out in front of the station, and gets his beat-up patrol car running, he heads to the scene of the standoff.
It turns out that the terrorist is fed up with the city’s decay, too, and he’s using his hostages to clean things up. You’re given a list of three demands: Close down a porn shop, get the town’s clock tower running again, and help out a man who’s trying to increase tourism to the city. From there, you embark on a complicated puzzle-solving journey that requires you to visit three locations in the city, picking up items and matching them to their proper functions. A quick-travel function allows you to use items you find in one location to make progress in another location with no hassle.
If you have a crass enough sense of humor, this game is great for some laughs. Some of the things Hector blurts out are hilarious in an I-can’t-believe-I-just-heard-that kind of way, and even the dumbest jokes are clever somehow. Seriously, how many games let you try to convince a pornography-obsessed blind man that a dead heroin addict is a blow-up doll?
Most of the people you meet are parodies of lowlife British youths along the lines of Ali G, speaking in ridiculous street slang and popping any pill a stranger gives them. Every adult character, meanwhile, is uniquely twisted, whether it’s a crazed war vet, a mouthwash-chugging bum, or a trigger-happy, Taser-wielding grannie. It’s fascinating to watch the developers’ gift for character creation and storytelling shine through in such a weird, degenerate game world—and we expect this to be even more true in future episodes, which will be developed from the get-go with the PC in mind.
For all the over-the-top adult content, though, the basics are pretty much what you’d expect from the point-and-click genre, and that’s both good and bad. You control the main character entirely with a mouse. You explore screen after screen, build up a collection of items, and resort to the not-always-helpful hint system when you get stumped. Most of the puzzles are well-designed, and some are inherently funny, but a few have solutions you really wouldn’t expect to figure out on your own. Some of the sound effects (including the voice clips you hear every time you try to combine things that don’t work together) become grating quickly. Many of the NPCs have needlessly complicated dialogue trees that are mind-numbingly boring to navigate. So, if you can’t stand point-and-click games most of the time, don’t expect the potty humor and gritty urban environment to change that.
Speaking of the environment, it combines a simple but artistic style with the feel of a hard-boiled-detective story. The entire game looks like a booze-soaked Saturday-morning cartoon (unlike other Telltale games like Back to the Future, which use 3D models), with all sorts of little touches—the characters’ clothes, the nasty debris on the sidewalk—to give the world character. In addition, the music goes with the detective theme, and the voice acting is terrific. I’m not qualified to judge British accents, but it sounds kind of like a Guy Ritchie movie, so that means it’s authentic, right?
Again, if point-and-click games bore you, even the great jokes in Hector: Badge of Carnage might not change your mind. You will find some of the puzzles frustrating. You will spend too much time messing around with some of the dialogue trees. But if you do enjoy Telltale-style games, and especially if you have a sick sense of humor to boot, “We Negotiate with Terrorists” is a must-buy. With a delightfully repugnant cast of characters, disturbing one-liners galore, and several hours of depraved puzzle-solving, this episode holds its own with the genre’s best. So, raise a glass of mouthwash to this new partnership between Telltale and Straandlooper.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
They’re simple, but they have real personality. 4.1 Control
It’s called “point-and-click” for a reason. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great voice acting and decent music, but some of the dialogue clips repeat too often. 4.3 Play Value
You won’t replay it, but the humor is great the first time through, it’s cheap, and most of the puzzles are clever. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
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