By Marty Mulrooney
Hector: Episode 1 – We Negotiate With Terrorists is a point-and-click adventure game created by Straandlooper Animation, published by Telltale Games. Straandlooper Animation originally self-published the game exclusively on iPhone last year, but now PC, Mac and iPad gamers can join in on the fun. Clappers Wreake, the town that took the ‘Great’ out of Britain, has a hostage situation on its hands and there is only one man for the job (besides, all the other negotiators have been shot dead!) Enter Detective Inspector Hector. First task: find some pants…
The storyline is simple but effective. Hector soon finds out that the terrorist sniper has three demands: fix the clock tower, shut down the local porn shop and help a man at the park’s tourism stand raise £25,000. This creates a very clear, concise set of objectives that helps the player immediately grasp what is expected of them. Although this also means the amount of locations are kept to a minimum, this is counteracted by the many sub-objectives and strong puzzle design.
Controlling Hector is a simple case of clicking on a hotspot to look at it, or double clicking to interact with it. This is obviously a holdover from the original version of the game where you would tap or double tap with your finger on the iPhone’s touch screen. It still works, but it is a shame that the controls never take full advantage of having two mouse buttons. Speaking to people also betrays the game’s portable roots: the conversation tree covers the entire screen, rather than simply residing at the bottom like most other adventure games. Again, not a deal-breaker but certainly noticeable nonetheless and worth pointing out.
Although the storyline is simple, it is greatly enhanced by the stylised British locations and a colourful cast of oddball characters. Hector himself is a gruff, grumpy, middle-aged man who is as far from being politically correct as humanly possible. Even so, he soon becomes likeable simply because he seems reasonably sane compared to the various misfits and undesirables surrounding him. His comments and replies are constantly hilarious, peppered with pop culture references and a heavy dose of British slang. Some people may be offended by the humour, but it is obviously very tongue-in-cheek and not intended to be taken seriously in the slightest.
As previously mentioned, the puzzles design is strong throughout. Hector picks up many items throughout his adventure and often has to use them in a variety of inventive – and often side-splitting – ways. Players can look forward to fishing in a toilet bowl with a makeshift net made from a condom, jump starting a car with an electrified ASBO-collecting youth who keeps calling Hector a peado, and causing a major explosion with some acidic moonshine, an electrical socket and a box full of used vibrators…
The graphics are cartoonish, stylised and boldly drawn. For such a small studio, this really is a major achievement. The cutscenes are animated nicely and the in-game graphics match up perfectly. The backgrounds are full of detail and haven’t suffered in the slightest from their move to a larger screen. Sadly, my monitor’s native resolution did result in some small black bars at the sides of the screen, but dropping it down a notch placed them at the top and bottom instead which was much more pleasing to the eye.
The music is slightly less impressive. To be fair, the soundtrack does do a good job, but it’s largely forgettable overall. Also, the sound effects are fairly minimal. Luckily, the voice acting is amazing, with overweight hookers, blind perverts and bumbling policemen all sounding spot-on. Even more amazing, they are all voiced – even Hector – by one man… Richard Morss, who also produces the game! I actually couldn’t believe this when I read it in the credits and it certainly gave me a new appreciation of the voice acting in retrospect.
Overall, Hector: Episode 1 – We Negotiate With Terrorists is a hilarious game featuring a delightful mixture of satirical British humour and stylised cartoon visuals. The main problem is its length: most players will breeze through this in a single afternoon. Also, it does have some small technical issues – mostly stemming from the porting process of the original iPhone game – but these do little to ruin what can safely be described as a crude, lewd, highly enjoyable point-and-click adventure that works overtime to put a smile on your face. I can’t wait for Episode 2 to arrive later this year!
8.5 OUT OF 10