After a genuinely surprising plot twist and climax, Hector the overweight and sardonic detective is back for the second part in the three-episode Badge of Carnage series, which began a few months ago with Episode 1: We Negotiate with Terrorists. Although the immediate hostage crisis in Clapper’s Wreake has been solved, the terrorist is still at large, and Hector must follow a series of leads to find him. These range from the terrorist’s sniper rifle to a large spill of barbeque sauce on his floor. Through investigation, coercion and a number of dirty tricks, he must tie these leads together to find the notorious terrorist and end the crisis once and for all.
The core gameplay is the same as that of the first episode, and similar to the gameplay of most point and click adventure games: you click an object once to inspect it, and twice to use or interact with it. The puzzles are solved by a mixture of object interaction and conversation with characters. The former is a lot more satisfying, because the latter quite often involves long, drawn out dialogue trees. Quite often, the puzzles are solved by weaselling hints about what you need to do out of the unfortunate character to whom you are speaking. These aren’t even really puzzles. They largely involve searching every logical place where an object could be in order to see where it is. Some intelligence is required to guess where the required object might be, but trial and error is an adequate substitute. This was far less widespread in Episode 1, and is an unwelcome addition, especially since it often replaces We Negotiate With Terrorists’ intelligent and well-thought-out puzzles.
However, many of the puzzles are still difficult – or, to be more accurate, multi-faceted – and you will probably require the hint system at some point. As in the original, you are briefly insulted and then provided with a series of clues, based on specific questions that you ask. However, the game does force you to ask Lambert, your bumbling sidekick who occasionally comes out with gems of wisdom, before using the actual hint system. Occasionally, his nonsense is enough to put you on the right track, but there are definitely puzzles in the game which will make you think “How on earth was I supposed to get THAT without hints?” Despite the condescending tone of the game designers, I am fairly certain that they intend for the hint system to be used – after all, why else would they include it? I found myself using the guide less than I did in the first episode, which contributes to my opinion that the puzzles are easier this time around.
In addition, the dialogue seems less funny here than in the original. It’s still funnier than most games, and still has its share of stereotypical characters and disgusting jokes, but it isn’t as witty as the original, perhaps because of the sheer volume of dialogue – they couldn’t manage to make all of it as hilarious as it was in Episode 1. The story moves at a faster pace, but progression is still mostly limited to the beginning and end of the game. Like that of the original, Episode 2’s ending is a surprise and a cliffhanger, though not as much of either as the final cutscene of Episode 1.
The graphics are the same as those of Episode 1, for the most part. The engine is (naturally) the same, and the same sorts of environments are present. The visual design is still pleasant, but the lack of proper lip-synching still grates slightly. The voice acting for the new characters isn’t quite as good as that of the old, and feels a little forced, but is still solid. Quiet, gritty music plays here as it did in the original.
Once again, length is a disappointment here. As I mentioned in my review of the original, value was the game’s weak point, and that remains true. Episode 2 doesn’t last any longer than Episode 1’s 2 and a half hours, and it retails for the same price point. It seems unlikely that the finale will be any longer.
At the end of the day, Senseless Acts of Justice feels like a watered-down version of We Negotiate with Terrorists. Great innovation can’t really be expected in the middle of an episodic franchise, but some positive change would have been nice. Instead, the puzzles are simpler and the writing isn’t as amusing. There’s no real sense in skipping this one if you’ve played and enjoyed the original – after all, it is still fun in parts, and the story does continue – but if you have just been keeping an eye on the Badge of Carnage series, be wary of jumping in now.