I'm a "Slacker-Backer", because I'm evil incarnate. I decided to try my best to help out DF by writing this short article about what I myself find intriguing and what I hate in Straandlooper's and Telltale's point and click adventure series Hector: Badge of Carnage on the iPad. I tried to keep this text as spoiler-free as possible.
While story and humour is a large part of what makes a good point-and-click great, I decided to ignore that because I'm too stupid to analyse them. (As evidenced by the "Story" section)
In this post I try to analyse the game as in-depth as I find possible. I’ll add screenshots someday.
The games themselves can be found by searching the Apple Appstore for all the iOS devices, as well as on Steam for Windows and Mac. This review is only for the iPad, however.
The series are a humourous point-and-click adventure set in the most criminal city in Britain. You play as Hector (Detective Inspector Hector), who must save Clapper’s Wreake from impending doom, while everyone, including the police, are too ignorant to deal with the problem. Lambert, Hector’s dumb partner, acts as the second playable character (in the beginning of episode 2 and 3.)
General, non-gameplay stuff
First, I'd like to comment on how terrible the startup process is. The game starts with a splashscreen, and it takes a few seconds for the game select menu to appear. I don't know why, but when you start one episode, it lets you select another episode, even though they are all available from the SpringBoard. After you select the episode the main menu pops up. There are three options which you can select: "Play game", which lets you select a save file (from a total of 3 save file), and either start a new game or continue, depending on whether the save file is occupied. "Options" menu is also available, where it lets you set the volume for music, sound and voices, as well as a subtitles option. The last option is, of course, "Credits".
+ The game saves every time you enter a room (or something like that), so you never lose progress. The game also does away with the multiple save feature. Having multiple saves is utterly unneeded in an adventure game where you can't screw up.
+ Hector has only two actions: Examine and use. Examine is done just by tapping on an object/person once, and using (this includes talking and picking something up) an object is done by tapping twice.
+ To pixel hunt (so to speak, the items you can use are ginormous), you just hold your finger on the screen and move it around and the name of the item will appear above the inventory (which is located at the bottom of the screen.) If you let go over an item, Hector will examine the item.
+ To skip dialogue, tap twice.
- To skip videos, tap twice as well. The problem is that if you accidentally tap twice, it skips and there is no way to view it from the main-menu. The solution to this would be a popup box that would ask you if you actually wanted to skip.
- No way to view videos from the main menu.
- Whenever you quit the game and start it again, you have to wait through the loading screen before you can continue. This is quite annoying when you want to quickly open the game up and play. What it should do is automatically continue from the last accessed save file.
- It is impossible (as far as I know) to get to the main menu from in-game. It is also impossible to view the help screen after you get the map or you have a partner. (The button for help is located at the same spot as where the map and the switch-character buttons are.)
The screen consists of the map/partner-switch/help-screen button to the bottom left, the inventory to the bottom centre, the hint button to the bottom right, and the view of the room taking up most of the screen (like it should.) Examining objects result in the text “Look at OBJECT” to appear above the inventory screen. Using an object results in the text “VERB OBJECT” to appear in the same location. Whenever someone speaks, coloured text appears above the character. The phrase for entering location is “Exit to LOCATION” or “Enter LOCATION”, depending on what kind of area it is.
The dialogue selection consists of at most 4 boxes with the phrase that take the entire screen. Usually, the one on the bottom is the “Excuse me. I have to do something else” type of phrase, which is the back/exit conversation button.
Usable objects usually stick out because of their thick edges and brilliant colours, while unusable background/foreground object are seem washed away or are drawn as silhouettes.
+ The design works fluently most of the time.
- The double-tap might not work all the time, leaving the player with the impression that the object isn’t usable.
- Finding entrances to other rooms might be difficult at times.
Starting the game
In episode 1, the game starts with a FMV. When it finishes, you discover that you’re in a jail room. The game shows a how-to-play screen, after which you’re on your own. The first goal is to escape the single room. After which, several rooms are opened, and the player has to solve a slightly bigger puzzle. When this is done, the player gets a map, which he can use to travel to different locations. Locations are found as the player progresses, so at first there are few.
In episode 2 and 3, the game starts with a tutorial. This tutorial replaces the how-to-play screen found in the first episode. It goes through all the useful things the player has to do, which are how to use, pick stuff up, etc. After this, the player has to escape the room again. Then, the player gets control of the two characters, as well as access to a larger area. After this is done, the player gains a map and loses control of one of the characters (Lambert) and the real game begins.
+ The game starts out slow, which is good for people who haven’t yet played point-and-click games.
- The controls are simple enough that they don’t require a whole tutorial.
The puzzles might be considered to be laughably easy for a veteran point-and-click adventurist. Most puzzles are the use-the-right-item-on-the-right-object sort, and some are even accomplished solely by talking to people. The rooms that are available to the player are few, and the usable objects are even fewer. This makes them as straightforward as “Figure out that the guy needs a golden letter with a number inside. Pick up letter. Pick up gold paint. Pick up number on a piece of paper. Combine them. Give the letter to the guy.”
+ Easy puzzles that will keep the casual audiences entertained.
+ Most usable objects are required in a puzzle at some point or another. This resolves the issue where the player’s solution involves an object that is there just fun.
+ The puzzles are logical.
- Veterans of the genre will probably resent you for the easy puzzles.
- Giving an object to a character that you haven’t talked to yet might solve the puzzle and initiate a conversation between Hector and the character that obviously wasn’t mean to be heard before the player exhausted all the dialogue options.
The game isn’t shy to give the player hints for most puzzles. Just examining an object is enough for Hector to tell you what to do with it. Using the giant vibrator (yeah.) on the world’s largest underpants results in Hector saying that the vibrator “might” be used to shoot an airborne object (a military helicopter, to be precise), which is the solution to a later puzzle.
In addition to the hint button, which explains exactly what to do, the game allows the player to talk to Lambert who gives vague hints on what to do next.
+ The player doesn’t get stuck.
- Some actually like challenge.
- Some people (myself included) are addicted to using hints. Once you start you never stop. How about a mode that disables all hints when you first start a new game?
Gameplay: Sandwich out of e
Story: Watermelon out of A litre of water
Total: I forgot out of 10
Wow. You actually read through this whole thing. That, or you just scrolled down. In any case, please leave your thoughts about this game or slap me with a trout.