What I like about the Hector: Badge of Carnage games is how comparatively different from one another they are. The gap between We Negotiate With Terrorists and its follow-up Senseless Acts of Justice [$4.99 / $6.99] highlights not only the breadth and scope of the adventure genre, but also Straandlooper’s willingness to use episodic content as an avenue for experimentation and iteration.

There are some technical improvements to note -- Straandlooper have added helpful on-screen cues to show players precisely where they’re tapping, and Senseless Acts of Justice is significantly longer than its predecessor -- but Hector’s cirrhotic core remains largely unchanged: it's still a competent adventure, smartly written and well-designed.

 

Senseless Acts of Justice doesn’t stray particularly far from established tropes -- puzzles are solved by navigating dialogue trees and manipulating items with a cast of quirky townsfolk -- but Straandlooper is deft in their adjustments. There are some particularly clever setpieces. There’s a section in Hector is trapped in a building and Lambert must rescue him (after adopting a child) that’s particularly nice. Oh! And the bit with the date-rape drugs!

Straandlooper's most effective change was structural, though. The first game in the series was fairly strict in its pacing -- titular Detective Inspector Hector is given three assignments, born fully-formed from creators Dean Burke and Kevin Beimers' collective thigh. The game ends when they are completed.

Ep2 loosens its grip, letting players suss out the game’s objectives for themselves. It's not enough for players to solve a puzzle -- figuring out the puzzle itself is often the first step toward progress.

In other words, Hector felt like a (well-voiced and fully animated) flunky in Ep1, but he becomes a cop in Ep2: each step following logically from the next. The first game tasked Hector with simply completing assignments, but Ep2 is about gathering knowledge, using that knowledge to formulate a plan, and then executing that plan by blackmailing people in a brothel.

It is, to lift a term from television, procedural. From beginning to end, Senseless Acts of Justice drip feeds new places to explore and new people to interrogate, each piece fitting snugly into another like a giant matryoshka with villains at the center. Senseless Acts of Justice develops and unfolds, with a well-defined arcs for both story and gameplay.

The puzzles are, on the whole, better and more varied, but it’s really Hector’s up-grade from tchotchke-hoarder to investigator that pulls the game together. In Ep1, Straandlooper lampooned crime shows with pithy-one liners; here, they do it by taking the jumpy, outsized logic of Legally Blonde and creating a set of puzzles and narrative beats to exploit it.

The way Senseless Acts of Justice couples its investigative puzzle-solving with Hector’s job title is an effective, though perhaps genre-specific, tweak, but it stumbles sometimes in execution -- there’s a long middle-section that, by and large, consists of navigating dialogue trees just so. These types of "puzzles tend" to be least fun of any adventure game because they get so repetitive and feel so strict. Ep2 also breaks the fourth wall with annoying regularity -- it was a cute, knowing wink Ep2, but that humor technique, too, can become repetitive.

 

 

My only serious issue with the game, though: Lambert, Hector’s bumbling partner. The Hector series allows players to ask Lambert for hints and presents it as a viable, in-game option -- it is, in other words, not cheating. Unfortunately, Lambert’s dialogue options are often based on information that the player hasn’t learned yet, effectively turning Hector’s hint system into a de facto spoiler machine. This type of cagey gating is annoying in any case, but doubly so in a game that depends on the slow osmosis of knowledge and lateral thinking.

Lambert also reveals -- at the end of the game -- that he had solved the case hours ago and kept the information to himself. This, I think, was originally conceived as a hilarious joke about both Hector and Lambert’s incompetence, but it just serves to undermine all of the work the player has so skillfully been doing for the last several hours.

 

 

Nevertheless, Senseless Acts of Justice is so well-designed and -written so often that I’m willing to forgive. The game stands well enough on its own, but in the context of the Hector: Badge of Carnage series as a whole, it’s a valuable lesson is just how much experimentation the adventure genre can stand while still feeling familiar and grounded. Straandlooper have an eye for characterization and parody, and they were smart to put their faith in the genre veterans at Telltale Games -- it’s served them well so far and, I suspect, will continue to do so when Hector: Badge of Carnage wraps up in its third episode.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • amat_24

    Why do you keep calling the game "Random Acts of Justice" when its called "Senseless Acts of Justice"???? :)

  • Geert

    Good review, I experienced the game just like that, although I actually liked how the whole puzzle appeared to have been solved by Lambert already. It fits completely with the overall personality of Hector and the game's character.
    The dialogues could indeed be a little pointier next time.And every now and then there are hints in the dialogues telling things that I already had figured out myself, but I suppose that's better than having to get your hints from Lambert too soon.What also struck me is how easily you can move to different places, which is extra nice when playing for short periods like you do on an iPhone.I absolutely love this type of game, especially when the characters are so original, well executed and contributing to the puzzle/story.

    Hector really deserves to be categorized with the great ones like Under A Steel Sky, Grim Fandango, Broken Sword and the Monkey Island series.

  • Guest

    Already said, but the game is called "Senseless Acts of Justice"

  • Zoet

    I loved this game, especially as a fan of British cop shows. I am happy to say that I only used hints once, and that was when the game had a rare problem with interacting with an item.
    What this review doesn't make clear is just how genuinely funny Hector is: I nearly made an idiot of myself on public transport by bursting into laughter whilst playing it!

  • 4xP

    Should get retina update...

  • TheTheory

    Definitely on my short-list of games to get. The first Hector was brilliant. And the review makes this one sound even better!

  • D.I. Hector

    Oi, meatbags. D.I. Hector here. Don't know how this review missed my keen detective eyes. Likely I was on a bender with the proceeds of my Episode 2 royalty cheque. Lasted all of about 3 days. Ah well, there's always next month.

    Listen up, chumps: Episode 1's about to go retinal. On the one side, it's a stupid big download, so you'll have to delete your Spice Girls Box Set to free up some space. On the other, you would not believe how clearly you can see the gap between the fat prostitute's yellowed teeth now, it's mingin' marvelous. 

    Anyway, that means I've gotta dump the rest of me old stock promo codes before the new shipment pulls up behind the industrial estate tonight. You Toucharcade monkeys have always been good to Uncle Hector, so here, take the lot. Be like picking low hanging fruit off a dwarf tree.

    A3E6FX9RJNL3
    TXXTHPWKTM36
    A6M4YJN3FYF6

    I suggest you decide amongst yourselves who gets them by meeting on the South Bank of the Thames, and seeing who can heave their iPhone furthest into the river. Best toss wins. Or, there's always first come first served, but what's the fun in that?

    Cheerio, coachpokers.

    D.I. Hector
    Clappers Wreake Police Service

  • Sanitymops

    Thanks Hector!

    The middle one (TXXTHPWKTM36) has been claimed!

    Good luck to everyone else!

    I can't wait to start playing,  will definitely pick up number 2.

  • smes3817

    Wow, thanks Hector!  Snagged A3E6FX9RJNL3 (was surprised it was still unclaimed)

    Can't wait to play through and get the other episodes :)

  • Mr. Ofi

    I got the thing. You know... the thing. The third thing. Really looking forward to the retinal  work of yours.

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HECTOR: Ep2 – Senseless Acts of Justice Reviewed by Joseph Leray on . Rating: 4