Hector: Badge of Carnage, Episode 2
This game is hilarious. It’s laugh out loud funny at its best and it falls only to chuckle levels of comedy at its worst. But it’s not just funny, there’s also an interesting detective story going on as well, populated by a host of twisted and bizarre individuals. Its set of characters are jokes in themselves, long enough to present their humor and then quick enough to stand back and hand the spotlight to the next. This is the kind of game that displays its writing first and foremost, shining a glossy layer that covers up the nuances that would bring down lesser games.
In the backwater town of Clapper’s Wreake, a town so dirty, so filthy that depravity has rooted itself into the very structures of its buildings and the very people that call it home. The returning hero of sorts, Detective Inspector Hector of the CWPS, is not the man to clean it up. That said, after the events of Episode 1, he’s done following the orders of a terrorist who’s out to clean up the town, no matter how many of its citizens he’ll have to kill.
The story is structured identically to Episode 1, beginning with a series of puzzles that don’t necessarily move the plot along, however do well in teaching the distorted logic that’s expected to succeed. This time around you’re not only controlling Hector, but also his imbecile partner Lambert, switching between the two in order to extricate Hector from the trap he’d fallen into at the end of Episode 1. From there the map sprawls out to a handful of locations, each one key to tracking down the location of the terrorist.
The Hector series is developed by Straandlooper, however it resembles its publisher’s standard approach to episodic gameplay, presenting a point-and-click adventure game that prefers simplicity and ease of approach over ambiguity and pixel scouring. Environments are widely colorful, but not just for aesthetics’ sake. Interactive objects are more colorful, larger and brighter than the rest. You’ll frequently come across a plethora of items that seem more ridiculous than useful to have, but they’re usually big and bright enough to call out their necessity.
The game follows a line of logic to get you towards your impending success, and even though it’s as off the wall as its humor, it’s easy to follow – most of the time. Issues crop up when the game doesn’t present the proper solution to a puzzle because you didn’t exhaust the proper dialogue trees, or you might have forgotten to double click everything you interacted with to see if you could take it with you. And as long as it’s not nailed down, there’s a fair bet that you can take it. But if you do get stuck, there’s a helpful hint system that’ll provide just enough information to keep you going, or walk you through a puzzle from beginning to end if you’re not feeling up to it.
And you have to solve puzzles if you’re going to progress through the story or watch Hector manage his way around the mystery. It’s when it seems that you’ve visited every location, and you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do next, that the gameplay becomes a hindrance. A decision then must be made: struggle with the puzzle, scour each page for that item you might have missed, converse with every character for that line of dialogue you didn’t click, or use the hint system to help you figure out what’s next.
The choice of using the hint system might be a simple one (if it’s there, then why not?), but then there’s the realization that the episode isn’t long. Much like the first episode, it should take you only one to two hours to complete, depending on how difficult you find the puzzles. So for such a short game, it might seem wasteful to throw away the few precious “Ahah!” moments the game has left. Not to mention, with at least another month to go before Episode 3’s release, it’s not like there isn’t time.
Hector isn’t innovative. It doesn’t raise the bar for gameplay in adventure games, nor does it really bring anything new to the table. It does, however, offer simple gameplay – offering an experience that’s easy to get into, along with a downright funny adventure to boot.