HECTOR: Ep3 – Beyond Reasonable Doom

Who is the mysterious criminal mastermind threatening all the good citizens of Clappers Wreake? What evil plot is he waiting to unleash? How does Hector fit into his nefarious scheme? And just what are the rules to Dairy Farmer Fighting, anyway? All these questions and many more are answered in Hector Episode Three: Beyond Reasonable Doom, the third and final chapter in the outrageous and hilarious Hector: Badge of Carnage adventure game.

If you’ve played the previous two Hector games, you’ll know exactly what to expect in this third and final chapter. Beyond Reasonable Doom is a point-and-click adventure drawn in a very exaggerated, cartoonish style that follows Hector and his long-suffering milquetoast partner Lambert as they pursue a man determined to destroy his beloved city of Clappers Wreake, a festering pit of pornographers, drug dealers, unfit mothers and assorted other lowlifes.

Like the other entries in the series, the gameplay in this one is fairly straightforward, with relatively logical solutions to all the problems that pop up in Hector’s way. An interactive tutorial that begins the game explains its simple, yet very effective, control scheme. Objects can be examined, collected, combined and used on other objects or characters in the game world with either one or two mouse clicks, depending on the situation. Conversation is simply a matter of double-clicking the target of your interest and then following a multiple-choice dialog tree, and there’s no need to worry about saying the wrong thing because sooner or later, if you’re persistent, you’ll end up going through every possible dialog option anyway.

There are no obtuse, Myst-style puzzles or arbitrary sequences of bizarre actions and reactions to be found here, and players looking for that sort of hardcore, brain-twisting adventure will likely be disappointed by the relative ease of this one. Instead, Beyond Reasonable Doom relies on smart dialog, over-the-top comedy and a willingness to provoke outrage and even offense to separate itself from the crowd.

It’s a smart strategy. Beyond Reasonable Doom is a very funny game and if it isn’t quite as sharp as the previous chapter, Senseless Acts of Justice, that’s only because SAoJ is easily one of the funniest video game ever made. This one had me laughing out loud too, no small feat for a game, but while the gameplay is at least as good as its predecessors, the comedic value – the series’ bread and butter – seems to have lost just a little bit of its luster.

There is still plenty of gross-out humor, though. Things kick off with Hector and Lambert trapped in a Saw-like scenario inside an old slurry tank that’s slowly being pumped full of raw sewage, and later on Hector does something truly awful to his reformed wino “friend” and then something possibly even worse to the Union Jack. Lambert, meanwhile, finds himself embroiled in a ritualistic fight over the love of a cow. It’s as brazenly juvenile and low-brow as ever.

Lambert, Hector’s aforementioned partner, actually features rather prominently as a playable character, allowing players to switch back and forth between the two at various points in the game. Gentle, retiring and possessing the physical prowess of a small schoolboy, Lambert is the anti-Hector, neither especially interesting nor very funny, but his presence does add a little variety to gameplay and a bit more depth to some of the puzzle segments. It’s an entirely unnecessary gimmick but the developers do a good job of making it work.

Something else they’ve done is make this chapter long. There are a few points at which the game appears to have reached its conclusion, only to spring back to life with some new, catastrophic twist. It’s no accident; the developers note in the game’s excellent hint section that Beyond Reasonable Doom is such a lengthy beast in large part as a result of complaints that the first chapter was too short. “Who’s laughing now?” it asks.

At the end of the day in Clappers Wreake, “who’s laughing now” will be whoever plays this game. It’s smart, it’s funny and it proves that effective comedy is well within the range of video games. Hector Episode 3: Beyond Reasonable Doom is a fine finish to one of the most entertaining adventure games I’ve ever played.