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Hector: Badge of Carnage - We Negotiate with Terrorists

Terrorists demanded we review this game. So we did!

Meet D.I. Hector, a cop from Clappers Wreake, which is probably a really funny joke I'm not British enough to understand. He's called out to meet the altruistic demands of a hostage taker and that's where you come in. The first episode of Hector: Badge of Carnage, “We Negotiate with Terrorists”, plays like a typical 2D adventure game with some quirks of its own. As is typical of most of today's adventure games, the actions have been dumbed down to “look” and “use/talk/wank/open/close/whatever”. Hector uses, rather unusually, a single click for looking and a double click for using.

There's also a textual representation of the action you're about to do, similar to Lucasarts' earlier SCUMM games. But where games like Monkey Island 2 would update the sentence as you moused over objects, showing you instantly what you can do, Hector will only update it from the regular “look at” action when you double-click or try to use an inventory item with the object. When you do worse than a 20 year old game, it makes the whole interface seem unintuitive and half-done.

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Hector: A man on a mission.

The puzzles are divided up in a typical Telltale fashion with a single puzzle at first in a limited set of locations before the rest of them open up and three puzzles are presented to you simultaneously. They are, however, not completely separate as you must make progress in one of them to find an item which will allow you to solve one of the other two. The first puzzle is rather easy, mostly because of the limited amount of screens, with the rest heightening the difficulty to a more satisfactory level. Some of the problems you have to solve, such as finding a blow-up doll to give a blind guy, are of the obscure kind that reminds me of kooky adventure games of decades gone by. There's also a hint system that goes several steps further than Telltale's usual in-game hints in that it presents both vague remarks as well as a complete walkthrough. This makes it a bit too tempting to check for the solution every time I'm stuck.

The background graphics are made up of almost vector-like geometrical shapes commonly found in flash animations, but dirtied up to successfully present Clappers Wreake as the dirty hell hole it's supposed to be. The characters are drawn more simply, but satisfactory detailed, though I noticed a couple of errors in the animations. The game also features some well directed pre-rendered cutscenes of the same quality as the rest of the game's graphics. The voice actor makes Hector sound a tad like Gene Hunt of Life on Mars and gives him a rough “fuck off” persona. The other police characters are also well voiced, but it falls apart for the rest. Perhaps it's because they got one guy to do all the voices, including the Jamaican porn guy and the females. Even Sierra managed to wheel out a few female employees to provide voices for King's Quest V. Perhaps so they wouldn't have Alexander trying to chat up a creaky voiced Cassima at the end.

One thing that annoyed me was that the pre-rendered cutscenes (which include the vital intro and outro scenes) do not have subtitles, so if you don't catch a line, you're fucked. On the other hand, the rest of the game has subtitles forced on at all times. The other games running on Telltale's engine let you turn subtitles on and off at will, so why remove that possibility for Hector?

“We Negotiate with Terrorists” is a promising start of Straandlooper and Telltale's new series. It features puzzles for lovers of oldskool adventure games's obscure insanity as well as some good jokes now and then. It's also longer than single episodes of other recent offerings, such as the Back to the Future series. However, the fact it's one third of a plot with a one-man band doing voices makes it feel a bit like a $4.99 game priced at $9.99. Check it out if you like the trailer.