Game Review – Hector: Badge of Carnage Apr27

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Game Review – Hector: Badge of Carnage

A slightly below-the-radar title coming from adventure game powerhouse Telltale Games today is Hector: Badge of Carnage, and it’s not like anything you’ve ever seen from them before.  Best known for their more family friendly franchises Sam & Max and Monkey Island, Telltale picked up the raunchy Hector from a small indie developer based in Northern Island called Straandlooper Animation.  Episode 1, released for PC and Mac today (iPad release forthcoming), was originally developed and published by Straandlooper for the iPhone in June of 2010 and will now finally see re-publishing and continuation in two more episodes under the Telltale label.  The folks running PR over at Telltale gave OMfG an early copy for review purposes, so now that the game’s available for purchase, you can figure out whether or not it’s worth your money.  Here’s the scoop onHector: Badge of Courage – “Episode 1: We Negotiate with Terrorists.”

 

 

Gameplay

The gameplay is true to the point-and-click adventure genre: lots of pointing and clicking.  I questioned the need to differentiate between single- and double-clicks for “look at” and “use/interact with” on all objects; it seemed to simply double the number of mouse clicks necessary, as I automatically attempted to use everything I saw.  The puzzles are pretty much an ideal difficulty level: not so easy they make you feel like you’re wasting your life, but not so challenging they make you question your own intelligence, either.  If you do have problems, there’s a very thorough hint system built into the game that has plenty of checks and balances in place to make sure that unless you actually want the answers handed to you (which is always an option), there’s still room for you to feel a sense of accomplishment at discovering some portion of the solution yourself.  There are still a couple of minor bugs, such as no audio file for certain lines of dialog or an audio file you’ve already heard once, but nothing game-breaking, and nothing that detracts terribly from the experience.  If you’re a fan of point-and-click gameplay mechanics, Hector does not disappoint.

Story

The humorous story of Hector is one that will definitely appeal to the right audience.  Be warned, it’s not something for people that are easily offended by jokes about drugs and sex or crudely drawn phallic images.  But, the concept of a terrorist who kills 37 hostage negotiators because they won’t deliver on his demands to clean up the town of Clappers Wreake is surprisingly carried out very well.  Again, if you’re part of the demographic this game is targeting, you definitely won’t be disappointed.

 

Graphics & Cinematics

The cartoon-y style 2D visual elements of the game are almost flawless.  The only disappointing element is the lack of lip-sync on all in-game dialog; characters’ mouths move through a series of different shapes on a loop whenever they speak.  Obviously, if you’re an independent studio developing for an iPhone, you’re probably going to want to keep the file size as low as possible, so lip-sync data is something you may deem unnecessary.  However, playing through the game on a PC, it is a little jarring unless you train your eyes to read all the captions on dialog as it’s spoken instead of looking at the characters.  Aside from that minor error, which isn’t found in the two cinematics that bookend the episode, the graphics fit the style of the game perfectly.

Voice Acting

Sadly, this is the category where the low budget nature of the game starts to show.  I can hardly blame the cast, as the guy voicing every character, both male and female, is also the Managing Director at Straandlooper Animation.  For the most part, the voice acting is just slightly below average, but there are a couple of characters whose dialects frequently fly off to a completely different part of the world; it’s set in a small town in Britain, but there’s a young British street punk who occasionally sounds like he just got off the boat from Jamaica, and an old British war vet who walks a line between Cockney and French I previously never knew existed.  The sound quality on everything is just a little sub-par, too.  Given that the game was originally developed by a small indie studio, it’s a completely forgivable offense, but it’s a little surprising Telltale didn’t replace all or most of the dialog once they got their hands on it.  In any case, despite the fact that the one-man cast is noticeably not a professional in the field, he does a pretty decent job, and how often is voice acting really the deciding factor on your personal Buy/Borrow/Burn meter?

Final Thoughts

All things considered, Hector is a pretty solid game.  True to point-and-click form, the replay value is pretty much nothing, which is always going to detract from the overall value, but the small pricetag makes up for it.  Plus, Telltale’s donating 10% of all proceeds to Japan disaster relief, so it’s for a good cause.  Sadly, PC gaming doesn’t have a lot of room for borrowing (until services like OnLive are perfected), which is where the Buy/Borrow/Burn scale kind of falls short.  But when giving the final verdict, we have to assume all options are available.  Since the game’s not perfect, I can’t just give it a straight Buy, and were we rating on a point system, 4 out of 5 would seem a little too generous, as well.  My final rating is Borrow, but since there are no legal means of doing so on PC titles, it’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s worth your money.  If you’re a fan of raunchy humor and pointing and clicking, Hector’s worth the ten bucks you’ll spend on it for PC and Mac, and definitely worth the $3.99 it’s been priced at on the iPod for the last year.