There is a crisis in Clapper’s Wreake. The town is run-down, crime-ridden and repulsive. That’s not the problem, of course; in fact, that’s a pretty accurate way of describing your average British city. Rather, the problem is that a terrorist has taken several civilians hostage in a building, and is using his sniping skills to take out the officers of the Clapper’s Wreake Police Force one by one. Not even the TWAT teams (no, that isn’t a typo) have been able to remove him from the building.
So, the chief decides to call in Hector, a particularly overweight, cynical and lazy officer who appears to sleep in a jail cell, on the grounds that everyone else in the police force is dead, arrogant, moronic, what appears to be a cardboard cutout, or a combination of the four. After using a condom to fish a lockpick out of a toilet (doesn’t this game sound brilliant?), Hector slowly makes his way to the crime scene. Here, he manages to extract the terrorist’s demands by talking to him (apparently, something which nobody else had thought of doing) and sets about improving the city, this apparently being the terrorist’s only desire. It seems that the town’s being run-down, crime-ridden and repulsive actually is a problem when a disturbed old man with a sniper is involved.
Badge of Carnage is a point and click puzzle adventure. Click once on an object and Hector will make a snide comment about it. Certain objects can be double clicked, and this will make Hector store the object in his inventory. The double click is also used to enter new areas and initiate conversations with other characters. Almost every single object and character in the game serves a definite purpose, although there are still a few odds and ends left in Hector’s pocket at the end of the game (these could, of course, be used in later episodes). Items can be combined to create new items, or used on characters/parts of the environment. The latter will most often result in a derogatory comment from Hector, and sometimes a funny animation (hitting a homeless man with a crowbar, for example). More rarely, using an item on something is required to solve a puzzle.
The puzzles range from the laughably simple (flicking a switch) to the highly intelligent (obtaining mouthwash to freshen up a roadside prostitute’s breath so you can steal her garter and use it to fix your car) to the tedious (searching a room for a required object, though fortunately this type of thing is rare).
If at any point these puzzles become too difficult for you (and they likely will), the game has three main ways of helping you out. First and least is Lambert, your scrawny and brainless assistant who mostly stands around looking worried but can occasionally give cryptic hints to help you along. If you find him too irritating or vague, you can explore the game’s hint system. A list of the tasks you must complete is shown, in the form of questions (for example, “How do I start the car?”). Clicking on these will give you a vague and mildly insulting hint. Further questions are displayed at the bottom in case you need more help. Most of these are some variant of “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
As you click through, the hints become more and more overt. If, at the end of all of these hints, you still cannot figure out what to do, there is an option to view a full walkthrough. You are insulted for two paragraphs or so, and then provided with a list of instructions. The system is designed, however, so that you will almost never need to use this walkthrough. I only used it once near the very end when I just couldn’t figure out where to find a wig (and then it turned out I had seen it several times and taken no notice). This is a testament to how the game’s puzzles are challenging rather than cheap, which makes completing them very satisfying indeed (yes, even if you’ve taken hints).
Undoubtedly the best part of We Negotiate with Terrorists is its humour. Hector has world-weary, sarcastic comments to make about pretty much everything and everyone in Clapper’s Wreake, and the presentation of these characters is so (intentionally) stereotypical as to be hilarious. The range of characters is one of the game’s finest points, and keeps what could become a stale adventure game amusing and enjoyable at all times.
This being a 2D adventure game, the graphics aren’t enormously important, but they are decent enough. The wide variety of characters means you won’t be looking at the same character models over and over again, and each character’s appearance complements their personality very well. One slightly off-putting aspect of the game’s visual design was the lack of synchronisation between lip movements and voice acting, but this is probably just my mind being spoiled by high-budget blockbusters. It’s not a big problem.
The voice acting itself is brilliant. Hector sounds suitably irritable; Lambert’s voice suggests weakness and lack of intelligence; the yobs (American translation: hooligans) that Hector sees on the street are desperately trying to sound cool, but end up sounding like “infants” (to quote Hector himself). The sort of gritty music that you would expect to hear in a police drama (when there are no gunfights) plays in the background and suits the mood quite well.
Not a whole lot of story progression takes place in the game, except near the beginning and at the very end. Occasionally, a cutscene plays, but not very much happens when it does. Some more cutscenes, just showing characters going about their business when Hector has solved part of a puzzle, would have made better use of We Negotiate with Terrorists’ fantastic cast. The game may appear non-linear at first, which could damage such prospects slightly, but in actuality there's a fairly rigid order of actions (though there is some leeway with this).
We Negotiate with Terrorists’ main problem is its length. For a $10 game, it’s far too short. Even with my hopeless puzzle-solving skills, it took barely two and a half hours to finish the game, and there’s no reason whatsoever to replay it. Indeed, once you’ve finished, loading your save file will only show you the final cutscene again, and it’s a nice ending, but not worth watching more than once (or maybe twice). Some bonus content or a longer campaign would have been welcome.
The game is solid while it lasts, but it really doesn’t last long enough. I daresay you’ll finish the game feeling slightly shortchanged. Having said that, when you’re actually playing it, you’ll enjoy yourself a fair bit. It’s not good value for money, but if you can live with this and just want a genuinely funny puzzle adventure experience, pick this up, and hope that the other two episodes are longer.