Exercising your brain these days is just as important as exercising your body. What better way to start your mental exercise regiment than with Telltale Games’ sequel to their mind bending title, Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent? Puzzle Agent 2 has series protagonist, Special Agent Nelson Tethers of Puzzle Division returning to the town of Skoggins, Minnesota – to follow up on the disappearance of eraser factory foreman, Isaac Davner.
The original Puzzle Agent did garner praise from us for its quirky sense of humor, sensational artwork from Grickle creator, Graham Annable, and of course, puzzles. Puzzle Agent 2 succeeds at giving players the same features that made the original game so great – without feeling like things have been rehashed.
What’s Special Agent Tethers getting himself into this time around? Well, after his last adventure in the sleepy hamlet of Skoggins, Tethers returns to follow-up on the abruptly closed case of missing eraser factory foreman, Isaac Davner.
Throughout the game, Tethers will race to discover what’s really going on in Skoggins, along the way meeting new characters and reconnecting with old allies (and persons of interest).
The story is a direct continuation of the original, but if you haven’t played the first game (like me, for example), Telltale included a handy-dandy recap of events told in a comedic way that will make you want to pick up the game’s predecessor. The presentation of the story does make it feel like a very interactive comic book with the puzzles incorporated in an engaging way – adding to the context. The presentation is only complimented by returning composer, Jared Emerson-Johnson, who provides the appropriate dark, ominous tones to dot the various revelations Nelson uncovers.
As mentioned, given that the game takes place in Skoggins once again, characters will be returning – though there are plenty of new ones. Never once will the player feel overwhelmed by the amount of people they meet and every one serves a purpose – to further the humorous story. Nelson will provides direction for the player by taking notes on his tape recorder – as a result, it’s hard to feel lost and it’s relatively simple to figure out where to go – and know what to do when you arrive at a destination.
The gameplay is Puzzle Agent 2 remains pretty simple. Enter an area and find out what you can interact with – made possible by a convenient magic circle that pops up when you click around an area. From there, you can talk to townsfolk to learn more information for your investigation or find puzzles to solve. The puzzles can also give players more clues – or just be available to solve for fun.
Puzzle solving is at the heart of Puzzle Agent 2. Of course it is, it’s a game called Puzzle Agent, after all. Each puzzle will vary in difficulty from simple logical deduction or visual problem solving to more advanced puzzles that would make Sherlock Holmes proud. Some puzzles will have a very intuitive nature and can be solved with a bit of forethought. Others can be more difficult, requiring some lateral thinking skills.
The puzzles succeed in challenging – without being overly difficult. Dynamite thinkers might breeze through the game without a problem; however, for those who struggle, a hint system is available – where Nelson chews gum to help him think. Players can find gum throughout the game in each area (or through successfully solving a puzzle the first go around with no errors and no hints needed).
One of the best parts of Puzzle Agent does in fact come from solving the puzzles. There is an unrivaled feeling of triumph that comes from solving a difficult puzzle – without any need of hints. Upon successfully solving a puzzle, players will also receive an explanation of how the puzzle is solved – and the logistics behind it. A nice feature to have, just in case you actually just got lucky with a certain puzzle and want to see how it was actually solved.
You can’t talk about Puzzle Agent 2 without noting the delightful and wonderful work of Graham Annable, either. Annable’s art is definitely an inspired aspect of the game. Characters all have a distinct look that, upon first glimpse, can tell the player a lot about that person. Cutscenes rely on an enjoyable exaggeration – that totally compliments the tone of the title (evidenced by one of the most overly dramatic foot chases ever included in a videogame).
Of course, there are some negative aspects to Puzzle Agent 2. The length is a bit short, which may not be something that isn’t likely to hurt casual players that only work-on a few puzzles in a sitting. As mentioned earlier, skilled thinkers will have no problems reaching the credits in a few hours. Additionally, some puzzle descriptions were a bit confusing – and required a few failures to really grasp how to get started.
Overall, anyone can enjoy Puzzle Agent 2 – without having to worry about playing the first title. Challenging puzzles that stretch the mind, a wonderful and quirky story, and great artwork make Puzzle Agent 2 worth your time and money to check out and enjoy. With a low price of $9.99, there’s little doubt that Puzzle Agent 2 is a worthy purchase.
Puzzle Agent 2 is available now for PC, Mac, and iPad. It will be coming to PlayStation 3 later this year.
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