Why do Marxists drink herbal tea?
Because proper tea is theft.
See, comedy is a very subjective thing. The fact that Russ Abbott had a successful TV career and that Boothby Graffoe has been more-or-less passed over by the mainstream shows that popular appreciation for comedy is kind of weird. So it is with Hector: Badge of Carnage.
So, you’d be right to be suspicious of anything that begins “I am not a prude, but…”, so I’m not going to say it. Rudeness is perfectly OK in my book, so long as it’s funny. Hector: Badge of Carnage (Part 1, naturally, as this is a Telltale game) is a run-of-the-mill point-and-click adventure with a heavy emphasis on smut. That’s not just toilet humour (although there’s a great deal of that – Hector is up to his wrists in a crap-clogged toilet within the first ten minutes), I mean enough seedy stuff to throw the Daily Mail into paroxysms. Porn shops, cross-dressing, prostitution, shady dealings in public toilets, drugs, alcoholic vagrancy, sex offenders… you get the idea.
Playing Hector: Badge of Carnage made me feel dirty. And, of course, that was exactly what Telltale were going for. Make no mistake – this ain’t no game for tots. Although, as is often the case, kids are really going to be the people who get most entertainment out of the childish humour.
For me, well, I can safely say that I spent a good couple of hours wearily clicking hither and yon without even cracking a smile. But like I said, that’s comedy for you. As I've mentioned before, one man’s Vic Reeves is another man’s Bruce Forsyth. So don’t discount it on those grounds.
Much better reason to discount it is due to the tired, staid, predictable and formulaic approach to the actual gameplay that casts this into the ever-bulging sack of Telltale point-'n'-click clones. If you’ve ever played a point and click adventure in your life, there’ll be nothing here that you have much trouble with. The entire game is played by chatting to the universally-grubby characters, picking up, combining and using objects and wandering from place to place. Generally, ever since the first Monkey Island game, there’s been something (such as the legendary insult swordfighting) to break up this pattern for a bit, a couple of logic puzzles here and there or even a quicktime event is inspiration is really on the ebb. But not here. It’s vanilla pointing and clicking all the live-long day.
Hector, our hero, is a seedy little police detective inspector who lives in a scuzzy little town called Clappers Wreake. There’s a sniper holed up with a bunch of hostages in a house somewhere in town, under siege by the cops, and it’s up to Hector to meet the killer’s three demands, going around town and cleaning the place up a bit as he goes.
That’s right: three demands. As is the case in every, every Telltale game in living memory. The strange thing is that Hector is actually a port of a really successful iphone game. So perhaps the old ‘do these three quests’ isn’t just a Telltale motif after all, but one which is constitutionally required by all adventure games worldwide these days.
So every once in a while there were the odd thing that did make me chuckle. Hector himself is very well voice-acted and the dialogue isn’t awful. Some of the characters have entertaining names (like Filthy Rich, the porno shop owner) and the instant hint system is wonderfully aggressive, making you weather a torrent of abuse every time you try to wring some guidance out of it. This clever system actually made me go back to the hint system just to see what kind of an earful it’d give me for different questions. The environments are drawn moderately well, although in the end there’s not a lot graphically that you’ll remember in a couple of weeks’ time. Difficulty is about what you’d expect from a Telltale title, and you’ll have the whole thing tidied away in about three or four hours, probably.
Telltale Games have some interesting new stuff on the horizon, taking a more adrenaline-fuelled and cinematic approach in a couple of their upcoming titles such as Jurassic Park and The Walking Dead. To me, though, it felt like Hector: Badge of Carnage was just a paycheck, lacking any really new and original ideas. Telltale just dialled this one in, I’m afraid, and they’ve proved in the past that their creative team is capable of a certain degree of inspiration. Perhaps they had the day off when Hector came in.
It’s only fair to reiterate, though: If this is your sense of humour, then it’ll be a right laugh. The gags are pretty relentless, and everything about the setting, characters and dialogue fits together well. If crude-without-a-lot-of-thought is your thing, go ahead and give it a try.