Trade description has always been a grey area for the point-and-click adventure.
Technically, you do point at objects and click (or tap) on them, but in many games from this genre much of your time is spent frustratingly trying to combine any and all said objects into something new that will solve a puzzle and advance the story.
Alas, point-and-mindlessly-click-every-possible-combination adventure just doesn't have the same ring to it.
It's a shame that Hector: Badge of Carnage Ep1 falls into this trap, because otherwise it's one of the freshest games in the genre to emerge from the adventure gaming renaissance started by iPhone.Staring down the porcelain
Carrying the subtitle We Negotiate with Terrorists, the game is the first part of the larger Hector: Fat Arse of the Law series. Beyond telling you the serial ambitions of developer Straandlooper, it should also give you a pretty good idea of the sort of satirical material with which you're dealing.
Not for those of a delicate disposition, the tone is firmly tongue-in-cheek. Heroin addicts, prostitutes, foul-mouthed grannies, sex dolls - it's not for kids.
Indeed, in the first scene, which sees Hector locked in his room - one of the police station cells - you have to hook a paper clip out of the depths of a fetid toilet using the shoelaces from a boot containing a dismembered foot and an old condom.
The process will probably take you 30 minutes, and involves randomly tapping on every single object in the room to find items, and then randomly combining said items. The process is just too obscure to be anything other than guesswork and demonstrates an overly enthusiastic adherence to the antiquated conventions of the adventure genre.All available options
Even getting to the main game hub - a hostage standoff in the freaky, violent town of Clappers Wreake that Hector has to deal with by completing three intertwined tasks - involves solving another four puzzles.
By the time I'd spent over 20 minutes on the last one of these - how to get the electric charge from a granny's taser to jump start your car's flat battery - I wasn't just losing the will to play, I was beginning to lose the will to live.
Yet for all the frustration the game puts you through, there are also moments of delight.
As with the artwork and general presentation, the voice acting is excellent, especially the grubby, grumpy Hector. So even though you have to repeatedly tap through multiple dialogue options to get the correct combination, the conversations retain their charm.
The long finger of the law
On the occasions that you do work out what to do with items and manage to do it seamlessly - such as giving the scally kids pills they think are disco biscuits to get access to the statute to get the spear to repair the clock tower - there's a real sense of achievement.
Yet for all the pleasure, frustration is the other key emotion inspired by Badge of Carnage Ep1. It's hard to tell which is dominant.
Hopefully, this experience and audience feedback will make future episodes more streamlined and polished. A hint system wouldn't be amiss either.
It would be disappointing not to have the opportunity to take another spin through Clappers Wreake in the company of Hector, whatever his faults.
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