Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hector: Badge of Carnage and the Case of the Horrific Bug

It may be an old clich̩, but the truth of the matter is that first impressions do count. The way something or someone catches your eye that first time around does make a difference. This is unquestionably true for videogames Рthat opening sequence has to draw you in, make you want to play, and when you finally do get to start actually playing, the first thing you do in the game sets the stage for everything that is to come after. Blow the opening and you may lose your audience very quickly.

The folks at Straandlooper clearly know this. It is because first impressions are important that opening puzzle in episode one of Hector: Bade of Carnage involves you, as Detective Inspector Hector, in your underwear fishing something out of a dirty toilet using a used condom. Yes, Hector is meant solely for adults and it revels in that fact.

Hector has had something of a long trip to its current Mac/PC release. Initially, the game came out on the iPhone in June of last year (with a promised second and third episode down the line) before Telltale Games stepped in this year and announced that they would help bring all three games to PC, Mac, and iPad. Said second and third episodes are now due this fall.

The game is a perfect fit with Telltale's style of point-and-click puzzle titles, requiring you to formulate odd solutions to weird problems. In episode one of Hector (entitled "We Negotiate with Terrorists"), Hector is called in to help fix the city of Clapper's Wreake at the behest of a terrorist. The city is something of a cesspool which the terrorist would like to see cleaned up. Hector is himself a cesspool as well, so his fixing the place does seem rather odd, but the foul-mouthed Detective Inspector still goes about his job.

Although exceedingly short, the first episode of Hector: Badge of Carnage is also exceptionally fun. It is the same sort of crude humor which is the hallmark of South Park and definitely not for the faint of heart. There are disgusting moments, lots of foul language (more if you understand the British slang employed), and general foulness (a significant portion of episode one takes place in a porn shop).

The graphics are cartoon-like in nature and the style is great to look at. The mouth movements don't line up with the dialogue being spoken, but that fits the entire crude sense of it all. As for the dialogue, outside of being foul, the performances are truly enjoyable.

One place where Hector does somewhat differ from many other point-and-click adventure puzzles is with the dialogue trees. It isn't simply a matter of exhausting all your choices in order to get someone to give you the information you need, rather there are several times when you need to progress logically (or semi-logically) down a path, choosing the right responses to get what you need to know and advance.

The game also features an in-game hint system which is just as lewd as the game itself. Ask how you should proceed, and you'll be berated rather regularly for daring to not go out on your own to figure it out. The hint system really is a perfect extension of the title and helps give the game a more finished feel.

Sadly, that finished feel is rather destroyed by the current Mac port of the title. Going back to that first impression of the game, while that first puzzles is brilliant, utterly disgusting, and a great hook into the game, one of the first things you'll actually notice in the game is a horrendous flicker. The port to the Mac does have a significant bug (perhaps only with certain video cards, perhaps not, and other PC bugs have been reported as well) which causes different parts of the game to flicker on screen. One moment you will be able to see everything perfectly, the next certain items on the screen will disappear, then other items, then the whole thing. Telltale is aware of the issue, but that doesn't stop the title from being an incredibly frustrating experience at times – it seems inconceivable that the default hardware configuration for many current generation MacBooks (and who knows how many other Apple computers) have a video card that is potentially not supported.

There are some odd other oversights as well, including Hector misreading a sign at one point, and due to his misreading it, giving you the answer to a puzzle that you may not have yet figured out. But, that is more of a minor issue.

As Telltale is aware of the flicker situation, they will hopefully arrive at a solution soon. Until that time it is exceptionally difficult to give the game a rating. As it stands, it something of a two-star title, but with the bugs fixed it would be four-stars. The flicker actually manages to ruin some puzzles as important pieces of the game flicker at different times from unimportant pieces.

It is because the frustration level becomes so great and the fact that puzzles get ruined due to the flicker that we recommend waiting for a patch for buying the game.

Hector: Badge of Carnage - Episode One is not rated by the ESRB, however, Telltale's website does recommend the game only for those 17 years of age and older and the game does feature many adult themes and language. The game is also available on iPhone and iPad.
The initial release:

With a promised fix for the bugs:

Article first published as PC/Mac Game Review: Hector: Badge of Carnage - Episode One on Blogcritics.

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