Review: Puzzle Agent 2
Blocked from finishing investigation, Nelson Tethers (not to mention the player) was left with a shock at the end of the first Puzzle Agent. The story stopped right as it shifted from quirky to insane and pushed towards a much larger mystery hidden in that quiet Minnesota town. I can promise you the insanity continues in Puzzle Agent 2, a game that improves on its predecessor as you crawl deeper into the madness.
The game follows Nelson Tethers, an FBI agent from the Puzzle Division. He sets out to return to Scoggins, a small town in Minnesota, to uncover the mystery of the Hidden People and the location of Isaac Davner. It’s in the same mis-en-scene of movies like Fargo and tv shows Twin Peaks. Scoggins is a weird town and something strange, likely mythological in nature, is going. Tethers is a mild caricature of the obsessive FBI agent drawing on elements from both the previously mentioned media. While this is a sequel, the game does a good job of summarizing what happened in the first game by replaying Tethers’ numerous tapes made during the first game. It is perfectly feasible to play this game without any knowledge of the first one. However, because the first one is such a joy to play (and free upon purchase of Puzzle Agent 2), I recommend playing it before this one.
Graham Annable had was the writer and art director for this game, and it shows. The story at times feels like an absurdist comedy.You’re constantly asking, “is this really happening” with most of the plot developments. If you’ve ever watched one of Annable’s cartoons on Youtube, it has very much the same feel. It’s funny and it’s well done, though at the end, I wasn’t sure if Annable had gone far enough. The plot goes to some weird places, but some of them are not as epic as they should be. The conspiracy plot was tired, and the almost expected after a while. And the game really did not convince me that the townsfolk were really ganging against Tethers like the first one did. In fact, the townsfolk are more helpful, despite being more desperate to get Tethers out of town.
Nevertheless the conclusion is fantastic, and the story is definitely enjoyable. If you played the first game and want to know how it ends, you will not be disappointed.
The art is the same as the last game, using Annable’s usual Grickle style. It’s stylized and from a distance looks great. The art fits the story he’s telling especially as it gets more nuts. The game reuses a lot of art assets from the first game, but also ventures into a lot of new areas that look gorgeous. The biggest concern is that because Annable’s style uses a lot of jagged lines, some of the characters don’t look as good during close-ups. This isn’t a problem for most of the game, but can be a little jarring.
For a game that has puzzle in the title, the first Puzzle Agent did a poor job of making the puzzles both challenging and engrossing. One or two puzzles had instructions missing, and were artificially difficult because of their poor introduction to the player. Then there were the ones that could hardly be considered puzzles at all On the other hand, some puzzles were so easy it was patronizing. It felt like the game was checking if I was a sentient creature and hadn’t accidentally bought the game through a seizure of random mouse clicks.
This is why I am so proud of Puzzle Agent 2, which has a consistent difficulty curve and some genuinely thought-provoking puzzles. They’re still not quite the strength of a Professor Layton, but they are far more enjoyable than the first game. Puzzle Agent also has the unique feature of incorporating the puzzles into the story, so that it doesn’t seem weird that everyone has a puzzle to give you. This is my big problem with Layton games, as the fact that every single character needs to challenge you to a puzzle to either help them out on a clearly abnormal problem or prove that you are a puzzle master. Puzzle Agent 2 manages to remove the jarring nature and the degree of separation between story and gameplay. Puzzles will play a role in the story and sometimes the puzzles will take a backseat so that the plot can develop. What makes this game great is that they are in service of each other, and don’t feel like isolated parts of the game.
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough puzzles lying around for this game to warrant replayability. The mandatory puzzles are about 95 per cent of the game, and the extra ones aren’t interesting enough to actively search for. For a ten dollar game, this isn’t too big a problem, but it would have been nice to build more the exploration aspects of the game. Scoggins is a big place, and it would have been more fun if they added a few more places and a few more puzzles.
Puzzle Agent 2 is an enjoyable and at times, wonderful, new puzzle-adventure game by Telltale. The story and puzzles will keep you playing until the end of the game’s five hour play time. At the very least, Puzzle Agent 2 is a game that deserved to be tried. You may not immediately like it, but at ten dollars, it’s definitely worth your time.
Puzzle Agent 2 is now available on every platform in the world: PS3, 360, Wii, PC, iPhone and iPad.