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Hector: Badge of Carnage | Review

Originally written for www.7outof10.co.uk

Two weeks ago on The Apprentice, Lord Sugar, lambasted a team for producing a substandard product. The product in question was an App for a smartphone, but it wasn’t its polish or presentation that he took issue with, it was its lack of international appeal. A fair appraisal of what was basically a soundboard crammed with derogatory regional accents from around the UK.

Quite what Alan would make of Hector then is anyone’s guess; though, given its penchant for UK culture and stereotypes, this point-and-click from Telltale would probably be out of the boardroom quicker than Nick Leeson.

Exhibit A is none other than the titular Hector, a loud-mouthed British copper who sleeps in a cell, is never too far away from a ciggy, and who professes to brush his teeth with beer. He’s Gene Hunt without the calming influence of a Sam Tyler, and merrily talks about his acts of valour and violence with equal vim and vigour.

If the tone of your adventure needing setting further, Hector’s very first challenges sees him escaping his bedroom by means of a paperclip salvaged from a U-bend by means of a condom-fishing-net. It’s one of those games. In this first episode alone you’ll mix with pornography merchants, narcotic seeking youths, blind perverts, buskers, war veterans, eastern European sex workers, and a veritable pillar of the community, all appearing in scenes that could believably end up on a late night BBC 3 sketch show.

That’s also where the standard of the comedy sits. A reasonable quota of gags and one-liners are of a respectable standard, with one even causing a mouthful of my beverage of choice to be sprayed all over my monitor. These are tempered, however, by an equal number that you’d sooner click through than wait for the punchline that you can see coming a mile off, or are so lowbrow you’d prefer to just move on and pretend you never chose that topic of conversation.

Yet despite the mix of gutter humour and bizarre-but-grounded settings, the puzzling that sits at the centre of the adventure is reassuringly strong. The puerility of the game belies quite an accomplished set of puzzles, some of which are wriggled out from through classic object manipulation whilst a similar number can be solved by the silver tongue of Hector himself.

All are pitched so as to be achievable. There are no ridiculous expectations here and instead linear thinking will win out in the majority of cases, just so long as you explore the town and keep in mind most of what you pick up whilst chatting to the locals. And when it comes to Hector and the unassuming crowd he meets, that usually means out-foxing them. His finest moments being those puzzles where he leads the conversation in such a manner that somehow his victim will do exactly what he wants them to, in seeming complete contradiction to how they started the chat.

Whilst the solutions to many situations produce amusing moments of their own, it’s the denizens of the town of Clapper’s Wreake and your exchanges with them that will stay with you. Each may be a personification about a Daily Mail pet peeve but each is brought to life with enough individual character complete with unique flaws to allow Hector to unleash the full force of his sparkling wit upon them. Not a single one may be loveable or even eek an ounce of sympathy from you, but boy do they stick in the memory.

The biggest flaw is their voice acting, which sounds as though it took place in a shower cubical and at times is of a terribly low quality. Also, impressive though a single voice actor maybe, his talents are stretched to breaking points at times, and irritatingly so.

This seems an utter departure for Telltale and the first hour will prove the hardest for most. Not because of the challenge but due to the decapitated policemen, incessant sex talk, and general reinforcement that Hector wants you to know it’s for grownups. This is the FHM jokes page come to life.

However, if you’re still clicking away merrily after that, then you’ll be rewarded with the best from Badge of Carnage and at that point it can stand with most of Telltale’s stable; even if the others might look slightly awkward about the situation. It’s about as British as they come, and, almost fittingly, for that very reason I can only describe it as Marmite.

7 /10

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