Review: Hector: Badge of Carnage (Ep1)

Detective Inspector Hector isn’t your usual video game hero. He’s a deadbeat, down at heel alcoholic who begins the game in his urine-soaked Y-fronts and spends the entire duration sidling up to peculiar people and insulting them.

The game’s full, confusing title is Hector: Badge of Carnage Episode 1: We Negotiate With Terrorists. We’ll just call it Badge of Carnage to avoid confusing the game with its lead character. As the full title suggests, your goal is to negotiate with a terrorist who has taken hostages in a local derelict building. He’s popping off head shots on any officers of the law who try to talk with him, until Hector breaks out of his jail cell and arrives on the scene. That prison break, by the way, is engineered via the use of a used condom, a spoon and a shoelace. The previous sentence pretty much sums up the tone of Badge of Carnage.

This is a point and click adventure game, very much in the same mould as the Monkey Island games. In fact, the Northern Irish developers, Straandlooper, are based in Donaghadee so you might like to think of Badge of Carnage as “The Secret of Copeland Island”. Congratulations to the three people reading who get that joke.

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Badge of Carnage works like many other point and click adventures. You collect items, combining and using them to make your way through areas of the game or to solve puzzles that meet the criteria needed. In Badge of Carnage, your not-so-friendly neighbourhood terrorist is demanding three things that he thinks will improve the town of Clappers Wreake.

Firstly, you have to fix the clock tower, which hasn’t worked in thirty years. You’re also tasked with shutting down the local porn emporium and assisting a nutcase with funding his plans for town beautification. It seems like you’ve found the only hostage-taker with a social conscience.

You will visit public toilets, rooms with penis-shaped rugs and tramp-filled alleyways. You will talk to an overweight prostitute with halitosis, a blind pervert, a disabled smut-peddler, a psycho granny and several blinged up, dumbed down youths. Solving puzzles includes the attempted sexual slavery of a heroin addict, buying knock off handbags, giving drugs to minors and a large box of soiled sex toys. Badge of Carnage is irreverent, maybe even offensive in places, but it’s very funny.

Humour is an important part of many point and click adventure games and in this respect, Badge of Carnage seems to excel, at least to a UK-based audience. Several moments are laugh-out-loud funny and most of the game will keep you smiling throughout the two or three hours it takes to play through. It’s difficult to predict how well the very British humour will be received across the Atlantic but as long as US based players have a passing familiarity with British phrases, or keep an Urban Dictionary page at hand, they should have no problems keeping up.

Puzzles are tricky in places and the tips screen, accessed with a simple menu click, is tiered so that you can simply get little hints or just go for the full on walkthrough if you need it. There is also the option to return to the hostage scene and talk to your bumbling junior partner if you need tips on progression.

The usual adventure game rules apply though: explore everywhere and click on everything. Solutions are never completely esoteric but there are occasions when the path to something you need is reasonably obvious but the way is blocked until you’ve met certain other criteria. As such, there’s plenty of backtracking through the game’s four locations (excluding the opening around the police station) and you will need to thoroughly explore each area before the solutions become apparent.

Hector has been appearing on iPhone for a while now and he has just been ported to the iPad but this release by Telltale Games, renowned adventure game specialist, seems like a match made in heaven. Badge of Carnage is a real throw back to the classic adventure puzzlers of the past but with a very modern aesthetic and it’s all the better for that. With plenty of variation in the backdrops, some tricky puzzles that shouldn’t ever become too frustrating and plenty of humour, Badge of Carnage could become a modern classic in the genre.

Pros:

  • It’s funny. Really, laugh-out-loud funny.
  • Fans of the genre classics should love it.
  • Leaves you wanting more.

Cons:

  • Only four areas.
  • Episodic nature means it plays through quite quickly.
  • Now we have to wait for more from Hector.

The adventure game genre was almost dead before Telltale Games breathed new life into it with re-workings of the classics and then several original titles based on well loved franchises (Wallace & Gromit, Back to the Future). Hector: Badge of Carnage is a thoroughly modern game with no well known backstory to flesh it out and yet it succeeds because of its great visual style, solid design and unrelenting humour. Straandlooper should be proud that they’re evolving the genre and fans of the genre should definitely check it out. It really is a very good modern adventure game.

Score: 8/10

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5 Comments

  1. Loved it on iPhone. Really funny.

    • +1.

      Had me sitting laughing like a fool in public :)

  2. Got this about a week ago but haven’t gotten round to it yet. Sounds like it’s definitely worth making the time for and I’ll be sure to play it before it-that-shall-not-be-named gets switched back on.

  3. Sounds good fun, hopefully a PSN port will appear at some point!

  4. £8.75 on Steam. £2.39 (I think) on the iPhone. Decision made. That’s bonkers! :-(

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