Even as games grow edgier with the times, most gamemakers seem to shy away from poking at certain boundaries of common decency. In crafting its crass new point-and-click adventure game trilogy, developer Straandlooper sheds caution as if it were a vile, fluid-stained trench coat and runs streaking across the line like a howling naked lunatic. The Hector: Badge of Carnage series debut, We Negotiate With Terrorists, set a memorably sleazy tone filled with comedic cartoonish debauchery and clever detective work. Episode 2, Senseless Acts of Justice, follows suit with another helping of the same unwholesome fun that is topped with gyrating nun strippers, exploding feces, and trucks adorned with massive hunks of dripping meat. It's an acquired taste--but it's one that delivers accessible and enjoyable gameplay, despite its often crude trappings.
Picking up right where the first episode's cliffhanger left off, Senseless Acts of Justice sees the series' pit-stained detective caught in the crosshairs of a psychotic cop-killing terrorist who's hell bent on cleaning up Clappers Wreake's cruddy city streets through force. After avoiding his own impending doom during the opening refresher tutorial, Hector is left with a couple of pieces of circumstantial evidence that offer clues to the terrorist's true identity. The trek across the city's repugnant terrain leads you through an all-new array of seedy locales, including a blood-spattered butchery, a nail salon that sells semiautomatic weapons, and an old church converted into a sex club. It's great to see that only a few locations are recycled from the previous episode. Each scene oozes with creepy characters, and however unsettling and grimy they may be, these new sections of the cityscape pack a lot of artistic flair. Moving between locations is a lot easier this time around. The episode's welcome new map system lets you bounce around from one area to the next without having to hoof it across three or four screens, which frees up time to poke around among the city's gnarly underbelly.
Though the game doesn't stray from the genre's standard point-and-click formula, the puzzles are accessible and more intuitive than the average adventure game without being too easy. In terms of subject, they're also on the weirder side of things--something anyone who dug Episode 1 will be well accustomed to by now. Blowing up a building using a feces-filled toilet, peddling human organs and bodily fluids to raise funds, and consuming vast quantities of vomit-inducing grade F meat are a few of the odd tasks you tackle. Puzzles span several different areas of the city, and individual tasks are part of a string of challenges that are connected to one of the three main clues you chase. It's cool that each one feels like a different mini plot on its own.
There's still a lot of the old "pick up object A, fiddle with it, combine it with something else, and use it on hot spot B," but a few of the game's more elaborate conundrums change up the pace. For example, the early stretch of the episode has you switching between Hector and his daft partner Lambert to approach a complex multitiered puzzle from two different angles. The game's revamped hint system now revolves around a police HQ hub that lets you hit characters up for clues before resorting to a more robust means of assistance. There's a full built-in walkthrough for those who need it, but it gives you numerous opportunities to figure out things on your own with a little help before revealing the complete solution to a puzzle. It's a great solution to the age-old practice of hunting the Web for adventure-game walkthroughs. There's enough help to get you through the sticky spots, but it doesn't spoil the experience.
Hector is still very much the crude antihero, and his harsh but amusing personality plays well off the cast of strange characters you encounter. There's no shortage of kooky weirdos to serve as fodder for his ridicule and amusement. Despite his incessant jibes and slanderous remarks, Hector's a bit more likeable in Episode 2 now that there's been enough time to get used to his abrasive mannerisms. The game's plentiful British accents are thick, and if you're not familiar with the lingo some of the jokes are hard to make sense of. But most of the time, the dialogue is funny, and a few of the comedic gags woven throughout the five-to-six-hour adventure are uproarious.
It's disappointing to find that the story in Senseless Acts of Justice spins out to be a little too predictable. The lead-up to the cliffhanger ending lacks some of the punch found in the first episode, though the return visit to Clappers Wreake offers some excellent puzzles and character interactions that balance it all out. The episode flows much more smoothly, and updates to the map and hint systems make trekking across town a speedier process. Senseless Acts of Justice is also a longer jaunt with a broader selection of areas to explore. Underneath the thick coating of grime and blasphemy, there's a lot of fun stuck in the nooks and crannies of this irreverent adventure game.