Hector: Badge Of Carnage Episode 1 Review (PC)

Game Review: Hector: Badge Of Carnage Episode 1 – We Negotiate With Terrorists
Release: 4/27/2011
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Telltale Games
Available Platforms: PC, Mac, iPad
Players: 1
MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: N/A (Recommended for 17+)

Hector: Badge Of Carnage is a game that never apologizes for what it is.  Putting you in the shoes (and that’s about it) of the pot-bellied anti-hero Detective Inspector Hector, you are taken through a lewd, brash, and vulgar ride as you work to fulfill the demands of a killer who is holding hostages.  I couldn’t help but get a sense of nostalgia for games like Leisure Suit Larry, Space Quest, and other classic adventure games that featured a bumbling hero combining odd objects to accomplish bizarre goals.  The game features a lot of strong language and material, so this isn’t one for the kids, but it does manage to cram in quite a few zingers and chuckles in the 2+ hour episode.

The game itself is a standard point-and-click adventure game that has the story told through in-game interaction as well as the occasional cut-scene.  There’s nothing particularly ground-breaking in the gameplay; click once to look at what your cursor is pointing at (and by look, I mean get a generally derogatory comment from your character describing the item), and double click to interact with the item.  You can also look at and sometimes combine items in your inventory as well through clicking.  The fact that the cursor highlights on clickable items on the screen essentially turns the game into a hunt-and-peck click-fest to figure out what needs to be done, since oftentimes the solution is as ridiculous as the situations that are presented.  Logic will prevail once you acquire items, but it’s not immediately obvious exactly what you need to solve the puzzles.

There are several characters that Hector will interact with in this episode, and each have their own needs that must be fulfilled in order to progress.  Whether it’s a hippie in a park, a porn store owner, or a crazed clock tower keeper, you’ll be scrambling all over town trying to acquire the items asked of you in order to solve the game’s mystery.  The story centers around a crazed gunman in a tower, who has hostages and is killing every negotiator he comes across.  It seems Hector is the only one who can reason with him, and is thus charged with the task of addressing some of the town’s issues (a rather reasonable terrorist request, all things considered).  Solving the issues is hardly straightforward, and you’ll often have to tackle multiple puzzles just to get the solution to one.

There’s a good deal of humor to be found in this game, and it’s layered in nicely (with in your face jokes, slapstick humor, subtle undertones, and pop-culture references).  The protagonist is often belligerent, weary and downright bored, but never becomes standoffish; you’ll be interested in the story from the get-go, and will want to see how it plays out.  The cut scenes are great, with a lot going on that makes watching them a couple times worthwhile to see all the little visual jokes going on in the background.  The voice-acting is decent (and I swear the voice of the gunman is the demon-door voice from Fable), and there is a walkthrough for the game included in-game should you get stuck (though there is also an in-character help system; more on that in a moment).  The afore-mentioned pop-culture references are also well done, and a few brought out genuine laughter.

Not everything is picture perfect, however.  The most damning thing are the little bugs that vary from cosmetic (your pantless character [in the beginning] will occasionally interact with objects wearing pants, and then lose them again once done), to gameplay interfering (sometimes text flashes on the screen quickly, but there’s no spoken words to it, so you miss what was said), to game crashing (certain item interactions would cause the game to freeze).  The help system is often as cryptic as to what you’re supposed to do (I’m referring to the character you can talk to to get hints being mostly useless; there IS a full walkthrough that is straightforward, but then you’re basically just following a tutorial on how to beat the game; something between mostly useless and completely transparent would have been nice).    The humor is also not for everyone; it’s very crude and at times very dry (re: British). It’s not bad, but it may not resonate with everyone.  Hector also repeats himself a lot, and since there are many objects in the world that serve no purpose, you will quickly tire of hearing him berate you for clicking them.  Finally, I know this game is really meant to be a short episode, but it still felt a little abbreviated to me.  Considering some of the length of the game is somewhat artificially enhanced by having to visit several locations to solve a single part, the sense of accomplishment when you beat the episode is diminished by a “but that’s it?” feeling (though to be fair, this could also be the feeling of wanting to have more content to play because it was enjoyable).

vttym’s take: Your satisfaction level with this game hinges on whether you’ll like the humor or not.  There’s not a lot else the game offers; it’s not groundbreaking, it’s doesn’t feel fresh, and it isn’t very deep.  That being said, it does have a quality story if you enjoy how it is being presented.  It’s clear this game was designed with the iPad in mind, so I can forgive the truncated characters and development that favors several smaller games.  What can’t be forgiven is the buggy gameplay and lackluster level design.  Your satisfaction of this game will directly correlate to how much you like Hector’s character.  Fortunately, at $9.99, you can afford to take a chance on this episode, knowing that if you do like it, there’s more of this style of humor coming down the pike.

+ Great humor and references

+ Price is right

– Buggy gameplay

– Adventure is a little short

– Style may not have mass appeal

Final Score: 5/10

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,