By Stewie Sutherland
Games for the iPhone and iPod Touch are things I usually stay away from (with the exception of maybe Solitaire) but there’s no denying that they’re starting to take off. A game I recently found late one night turned out to be a real gem to play – it had a dirty sense of humour but was too much fun to put down, even at four a.m. That game is Episode 1 of a planned series: Hector: Badge of Carnage.
A tap and slide (point ‘n’ click) puzzle game, Hector: Badge Of Carnage – Episode 1: We Negotiate With Terrorists revolves around a soft bellied, alcoholic, foul mouthed, smoking, angry, cockney, dry witted Detective Inspector named Hector. A guy who sleeps in a cell at the police station with several empty bottles, Hector lives and works in the town of Clappers Wreake – the town that took the ‘Great’ out of Britain.
Hector is a guy who believes everyone is guilty and endures his thick-as-a-plank partner Lambert so long as he makes the tea right. Resigned to his fate in life, he’d prefer to have mid morning naps and drink with the local hobo in the alleyway behind the station than do actual Detective work. Of course, when it boils right down to it, he hates criminals – so when he’s ordered to put on pants and come down to the scene of a bloody hostage crisis, he’ll do whatever it takes. And that is where our story begins…
Actually, it begins in a cell with no pants, but you know what I was getting at…
“Let that be a life lesson you little crud! You want a free ride? Join the police!”
Hector commandeers some trousers
Episode 1 introduces players to the titular character and the town of Clappers Wreake on the morning of a hostage situation, where several police negotiators are gunned down. While the rest of the force orders ice-cream, play cards and pretend to shoot civilians (one of them accidentally does!) the Chief decides that the only man who can handle the situation is Hector.
Hung over and locked in his cell, the puzzles start immediately. Players have to unlock the door, steal some jeans and return life to the ‘Clapheap’ – the only car that wasn’t taken to the scene of the crime. It’s hard to find Hector likeable at first. He speaks in a dry monotone that wouldn’t be out of place guarding a swanky club. It isn’t until you escape your cell and answer the call about the crisis that Hector becomes livelier. Not too much more, but enough. There’s a bit more of a sarcastic grump in his voice that fits the scene well.
“Definitely a her – only a female can make my life this miserable.”
Hector describes “The Clapheap”
When you finally do get to the hostage crisis you have several conversation tree choices while talking to the terrorist, ranging from professional responses to hurling insults. After a few different dialogue exchanges you’ll be presented with three demands to “repair the crumbling foundations of Clappers Wreake”. (Our villain has a public-minded conscience it seems).
While a few fun, easy puzzles got us away from the station, here the game becomes a bit more complicated. Charged with fixing the town clock, destroying the adult shop ‘Exotico’ and helping a public servant, Hector soon learns that it’s going to be a long day. And that a few hostages are probably going to die. Players can be prepared to revisit scenes multiple times, often bringing new items from the last one to see where they fit.
The game doesn’t just feature a crude sense of humour – it positively generates it. This episode revolves around (not including the crisis) three areas – a broken town clock, a park and an adult store. All of the areas look dirty and grimy and it creates a fitting atmosphere. The park is home to a group of raving teens that speak in internet slang and a diseased-looking toilet block. The clock is home to a legless alcoholic who watches a safety video all day for lack of anything better to do. And the adult store? It’s perhaps the cleanest venue of them all, until you look in the basement. (I really don’t think I can say any more!)
I don’t want to sound like I’m abusing this game in any way, I’m just trying to paint you a picture of what to expect. It’s a bit sick in places, but it’s subtle and has a razor sharp wit to it. It’s a smarmy sickness and thoroughly enjoyable.
Graphics wise, We Negotiate With Terrorists features some gorgeously rendered animated cutscenes, perfectly scaled to the iPhone’s screen. The game itself runs smoothly and flawlessly, with little to no loading. It’s a bit surprising just how much detail can be packed into such a small screen; just tapping random objects is pretty funny. The game mechanics are easy – I ignored the tap-and-slide instructions in favour of a more point-and-click style. Tap an object or person to look at or talk to them, double tap an object to pick it up, or tap the ground to move Hector around. Your inventory at the bottom is a simple case of selecting an item and either using it in the field, or combining it with another item.
The audio is well done – while the songs are very low key, they provide a mellow mood to the different areas. This usually jumps to a higher paced tempo during cutscenes or when talking to the terrorist. It gets the job done. But the voice acting? It’s spectacular – between Hector’s gruff sarcasm, his happy-go-lucky partner Lambert and the booming threat of the sniping maniac, a whole cast of characters are featured. Drunken Scotsmen, hookers, police, thugs, dealers, a morbidly obese porn shop owner and a very disturbing character called Blind Ali round out the cast nicely. Oh, and every single voice is provided by Richard Morss, who also produces the game. What a talented guy!
The description for the game is literally along the lines of “Buy our game – you get to play it, and we get your money. Or don’t, and we probably won’t make a second one.” This is pretty cruel, as this chapter ends abruptly on a cliff-hanger, but neither the game nor the developers try to hide behind any charm. It’s a simple case of “this is our game – it’s crude, rude, and fun. Play it if you want.” It’s got a steep (for an iPod app) price of $4.99 but is well worth the cost. I can’t wait for Episode 2!
8 OUT OF 10