July 5, 2011

Review – Puzzle Agent 2

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — TJ "Kyatt" Cordes @ 5:34 pm

Review Puzzle Agent 2
It’s not even three weeks into summer, and I’m already retreating back to the ominous tundra that is Minnesota, to cool off and play Puzzle Agent 2. The sequel to last year’s Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent again follows FBI agent Nelson Tethers, as he returns to the creepy little town of Scoggins, where he previously solved a mystery armed with nothing but a passion for solving puzzles… well, he was also armed with a gun, but he doesn’t use it for some reason.

Having solved the mystery of the Scoggins Eraser factory in the previous game, Tethers isn’t satisfied with how he left Scoggins, Minnesota, and chooses to return on his own to figure out why so many people in town are now missing and what the hell all of those gnomes are up to, and if he happens to solve a few puzzles along the way, that’s just gravy. In case you were wondering, yes, you really should play Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent (which I’ll just be calling Puzzle Agent 1 for the remainder of this review) before playing this sequel.

The ‘2’ in this game’s title isn’t one of those Street Fighter-style “play this game instead, because it’s so much better that people will think that’s where the series started, even though it has a bloody two in the title”. Puzzle Agent 2 is instead the episodic “we’ll put a couple of sentences in the beginning summarizing the events of the last game, but unless you actually played it, your connection to these characters is going to be slim to nil” type of 2, and since this is an adventure game, you want your connection to everyone to be… fat to infinite. Additionally, by playing Puzzle Agent 1, you get to appreciate how all of the old characters are even more suspicious, paranoid, and just all-around weirder than they were in the first game, which is quite the accomplishment.

Review Puzzle Agent 2

Unlike other adventure games (and much like Puzzle Agent 1), Puzzle Agent 2’s gameplay doesn’t consist of gathering an inventory of items to be combined and used, but rather by solving a series of isolated and well-drawn logic puzzles. In fact, the only items that you can hunt down and collect are pieces of gum, each of which provide a hint for a puzzle (chewing gum helps Agent Tethers concentrate, even if it has already been chewed and stuck to a wall). The point and click aspect of the game is streamlined; clicking on anything that you can’t interact with will instead emit a radar that points out any nearby objects that you can interact with. It’s a very handy feature – it feels a bit like cheating, in the vein of holding the tab key at the end of a Strong Bad email in order to find the Easter egg, but regardless, the real challenge of the game lies in the puzzles.

The good news for fans of the first game is that the puzzles in Puzzle Agent 2 are on par with the ones in Puzzle Agent 1. The bad news is that the puzzles in Puzzle Agent 2 are on par with the ones in Puzzle Agent 1. Many, if not all of the puzzles are based on the types you encountered in the last game; you have your “drag objects around to clear a path” puzzles, your “guess which number is next in this pattern” puzzles, your “enter a series of commands to make this machine do something” puzzles, and many other old favorites.

I was just hoping that there would be some new favorites added in there, or at least that these ones would be significantly more difficult, but neither is the case. I managed to finish the game with thirty pieces of gum left and barely enough incorrect answers to count on one hand. The sequel is not without improvement, though – Puzzle Agent 1 had several puzzles in which the game’s unique art style worked against it, and you could solve them by putting pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle, rather than by meticulously analyzing the paths formed by the maze or path you were putting together. Such a bypass does not exist, or at least is not as prevalent in Puzzle Agent 2.

Review Puzzle Agent 2
The hand-drawn graphics make this game look like a comic book brought to life, in theory. The way that all the lines in the game have a pencil-like texture to them gives this game a unique look, but the way the line thickness erratically varies is a bit distracting; regardless of depth, all large objects are drawn with very thick lines, and small objects, such as the pieces of gum, have very thin lines. It’s as if every person and object in the game was drawn the same size and scaled up or down accordingly. Complaints about line thickness aside, the game looks very good, and is full of characters whose expressions of fear, confusion and/or despondency do an excellent job at conveying the atmosphere of the game.

Puzzle Agent 2 is caught in a paradox in which the experience you have with the previous game is what makes this story worthwhile, but is also what makes the puzzles therein seem exceedingly familiar. It is still, at its core, a charming and creepy mystery full of astronauts, gnomes and men with bushy facial hair and Nordic accents* complete with the occasional brain-jostling along the way, but not really a big step up from the first game.

*One of these days, I’m going to write a review that doesn’t point out hilarious accents. This is not that day.

TellTale Games

TellTale Games

PC, MAC, iOS (PC Reviewed)


Release Date
June 30, 2011

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

1 Comment »

  1. Played the first one on PC and again on PS3 for a review so hopefully I get to review this one on PS3 once it releases. Really enjoyed part 1 but it’s still weird how this isn’t a “season” since that’s what Teltalle got us used to hehehe. Now, where are the other “pilot” games?

    Comment by EdEN — July 6, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

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