Before I get into reviewing Hector: Badge of Carnage, a brief history lesson is in order. Back in the 1990s, adventure games were all the rage. Talk to anyone who gamed during that point in time and they'll toss out names like Monkey Island, King's Quest, and Beneath A Steel Sky. LucasArts and Sierra were known for developing scores of point and click games that challenged the mind and tickled the funny bone. As video game tech got more and more innovative and powerful, adventure games fell by the wayside as action and shooter titles became the norm. Point and click adventure games were no longer in vogue, but clung tenaciously to life. It wasn't until 2004 when LucasArts, to the genuine shock of everyone, abruptly canceled the development of Sam and Max Freelance Police that many considered adventure games to be well and truly dead.
Or were they?
Founded by members of the Sam and Max team, Telltale Games sought to bring adventure gaming back into the mainstream and did so by producing several seasons of Sam and Max,Tales of Monkey Island and forming an imaginative collaboration with screenwriter Bob Gale in order to create Back to the Future: The Game. With the upcoming release of The Walking Dead, Fables and Jurassic Park, adventure gaming is coming back in a very aggressive way.
Hector: Badge of Courage continues this trend, although it was not developed by Telltale Games. They merely act as the publisher for Straandlooper, an animation studio based in Northern Ireland. What's different about this title than those in Telltale's catalog is that Hector is being the first Mature-rated title, so make sure the kids aren't around. Hector is unashamed of its brand of toilet humor that pervades each episode and while some of it genuinely funny, like most raunch-fests, it tends to get a wee bit stale after awhile.
Now, if you've played adventure games before, you'll know that these tasks are easier said than done. While attempting to meet the terrorist's demands, Hector will engage with a colorful cast of characters including (but not limited to) prostitutes, a blind pervert and hoodies who talk in netspeak. Completing the objectives follows a familiar adventure gaming formula: standing in the way of the hero's goal are citizens who have the item the hero needs but will not give it away unless the hero completes an errand for them. Helping these people usually involves jumping to and from locations and dealing with other characters. Should you find yourself losing track of the current objective, an in-game hint system (that insults you whenever it can) prevents you from getting stuck.
Episode two, Senseless Acts of Justice, picks up where the first episode left off, obviously. One noticeable difference between this and the last episode was the inclusion of a brief tutorial that explains the controls and inventory management. This was somewhat strange because the first episode had no instructions whatsoever, just a help screen. Why not reverse things around? Episode two does feel like it was developed long after the first episode, so that might have something to do with it. That being said, hearing Hector comment on the in-game instructions was pretty entertaining. Episode two mixes up the mechanics for the first half hour by allowing you to switch between Hector and his partner Lambert in order for the characters to pass items back and forth to each other. Once the game proper begins, it quickly returns to the form of the first episode, requiring Hector to visit several locations and doing favors for people before getting what he needs to crack the case.
As I mentioned earlier, the game contains a heavy dose of adult humor and situations. Several of the jokes managed to elicit a few chuckles, but the schtick gets stale quick. Hector will often spew foul language whenever he gets exasperated (which is all the time, really), many of them forms of British slang so the effect of certain words and insults were lost on this American player. The voice work in the game is good with Hector's gruff, tired and frustrated pieces of dialog being the best of the bunch. The game is technically competent, but I ran into a problem during the second episode in which character animations glitched out and were replaced with a big black box. At that point, all of the characters on the screen changed into boxes before the screen went completely dark, forcing me to reset my machine. It's not the first time I had a problem with a Telltale game crashing, the same occurred during one of the Back to the Future episodes.
If you're the kind of person who loved adventure games during their prime, I don't see any problem recommending this title. The juvenile humor of the game gets to be a little off putting after awhile, but it's not enough to want to quit the game outright. The gameplay gets a bit bland considering that you're doing the exact same thing between the first and second episodes, just in different parts of town. With all the adventure games, both old and new, available these days Hector: Badge of Courage ranks as being “just okay.” If you're dying to get your hands on another point and click game, Hector works fine in a pinch, but you might want to find another (like Runaway: A Road Adventure or A Vampyre Story) or start dipping into the classics if you haven't already.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.