Review: Puzzle Agent 2 (PC)

Puzzle Agent 2
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: 06/30/2011

The last few titles I’ve gotten to review from Telltale have been a lot of fun to play and I had a blast reviewing them and am definitely looking forward to Jurassic Park. Now, I didn’t get a chance to play the first Puzzle Agent, but I guessed from the title that it’d be an adventure game, something Telltale excels at, and that it’d have a ton of puzzles in it. Sometimes nothing gets by me. So I proceeded into this looking forward to lots of puzzles and some humor thrown in to keep my interest. How right I’d be.

Story/Modes
One of the things going for this game is that it has an amusing story with a great cast of truly quirky and fun characters, including the hero of the story, Agent Nelson Tethers of the FBI’s Puzzle Division. The game picks up with Tethers back at his division HQ after his last successful run at the case from the first game, but something about the way things ended has him bothered, so he decides to use his vacation time to continue investigating the strange events that happened in Scoggins, Minnesota.

The game doesn’t give you much back story from the first game. Just that the head of the Eraser Factory was taken by mysterious forest gnomes known as the Hidden People and Tethers is the one responsible for getting the Eraser Factory back up and running. As to why the FBI was involved, apparently this Eraser Factory supplies the White House eraser supplies and with it shut down supplies were dwindling. With the former head of the factory still missing, Tethers goes back to try to tie up loose ends that the FBI says aren’t needed to be closed. You meet a cavalcade of bizarre and interesting characters that feel like they’re all right out of a Coen Brothers film, and you know all of this has to have some kind of rational explanation, and some of it does, but not all of it, which just adds to the fun. The story itself is pretty interesting and you don’t have to do much to get information out of people, maybe broach a subject twice or simply help them with a problem by solving a puzzle. This town loves their puzzles.

After that part of the game is done, you can access any of the puzzles from the game in Tethers filing cabinet later, which I thought was a nice touch for those who don’t want to go through the whole game and enjoyed some of the more interesting puzzles. For me though the story was the big thrust of the game. I did enjoy the puzzles but the characters are what kept me playing it nearly non-stop.

Story/Modes Rating: Good

Graphics
This is not a powerhouse of a game, and I think that’s a good thing. Visually it reminds me of some of the animation from the 50s and 60s you’d see on television, which really fits the kind of bizarre mystery and characters that go along with it. Even so, the animations are jerky and I’m sure it’s done on purpose, but it really messed with my head a bit while I was playing. It’s not often I have to take a break during a three hour game because it’s making my head hurt from the jerky visuals. Other than that it has a very interesting look and feel that really sets it apart from other games we’re getting out there in this genre.

Graphics Rating: Above Average

Sound
This game has some great sounds going to it. The voice actors do a fantastic job bringing these characters to life and conveying the right hint of emotions where needed. The Hidden People have some interesting sounds to them, and the music wasn’t terribly repetitive or annoying which is always a plus. Aside from the voice actors, the rest of the audio just kind of does its job, nothing standing out too much, but this game is more about the puzzles and quirky characters and that’s where its strengths lie. So while Audiophiles might not get a ton out of it, most other players won’t be disappointed.

Sound Rating: Very Good

Control and Gameplay
Most of this game works like a 2D adventure game when you’re not in a puzzle. You move your cursor with the mouse and can click in empty areas where you’ll send out a shock wave that highlights things you can look at, then you click on those to get a better look. There are bits of gum to collect all over town that also show up if you don’t spot them right away, because chewing gum helps Tethers to concentrate, but I really hope he’s not chewing it, because, ew. This is how you start conversations, initiate funny cut-scenes when you’re checking out something interesting, or select puzzles to do. There isn’t much moving other than clicking on something that will spur the cut-scene or movement to another area.

Puzzles are mostly click and drag with the mouse, or typing in on a keypad using your mouse buttons. There are a wide variety of puzzles, over thirty when I last counted, and while a few types got used over again, each one is still unique. Some are harder than others, and some are painfully obvious. Like re-arranging furniture to hide movement, looks easy at first until you realize you can’t turn them and you can’t move anything else in the room but the furniture, so somehow you have to work around this potted plant that you really wish you could move one square. Most puzzles you should be able to get through in about a minute, some less than that, and the few less than obvious ones will take longer.

You get graded on your puzzles as you do them. If you complete them without any hints, and without any mistakes, like sending it in for verification when it’s wrong, then you get a top agent score of A. Each failure or use of hint drops the score significantly and costs the taxpayers more money. Yeah, the fewer times you submit a puzzle, the less it costs the taxpayers, which I thought was a great touch.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Great

Replayability
While you could pull this out and just do puzzles from Tethers filing cabinet, it works a little less so when you’re on a PC. They do have this for the iPad, but I’m reviewing the PC version, and if even if you have a laptop, it’s a bit much to pull this out just to play puzzles on the go. The story itself is amusing and the paranoid and bizarre characters are enough to make me want to play through it again, if nothing else then to just see reactions to different things. But if you have time to kill and just want to screw around with some cute puzzles, you could always start this one up and just play through those without the story if you wanted to.

Replayability Rating: Very Good

Balance
The game itself is priced pretty reasonably. For $10 you get a full 2 to 3 hours of game play and then you can replay the puzzles whenever you want, which is nice. I was a bit annoyed the game is a bit less than standalone as some of the events from the first game are touched on but never fully explained in this one. I had to go around digging online to get the full story. You could always by the first game which is going even cheaper than this one as well, but it would have been nice to have a better back story inside this game than to have it rely so much on what happened before and count on people having played the first game before.

There isn’t as much balance to this as I’d have liked. The puzzles never really seem to get more complex, just different. Even towards the end of the game when a few puzzle types come around again you know the trick to beat them even with the changes to them, making them far easier to do. The puzzle before the last one is kind of weird and I’m not sure how I did it, or even if I did do it, but I did get an ending, so I’m guessing I did. It was the one puzzle that didn’t seem to work right or make much sense at all. A few puzzles you don’t have to do are scattered about here and there, so there are some you can miss if you just go for the ones to get through the story line. There isn’t much consequence to this though as you gain access to them from Tethers filing cabinet later.

Balance Rating: Decent

Originality
I do love the setting and it feels fresh and it’s definitely amusing, but they’ve done it before. Hell we’re even visiting the same town from the first game. A few different locales which is good, but its all back in the same town all over again. From what I’ve read I do think the story goes a bit deeper than it did in the first game, but you’d kind of have to build off what happened previously. Some puzzle types do get repeated, and some of them I’d seen used before in different games, hell some of them used to be their own game before they were included here with different set-ups. I think if they do put out Puzzle Agent 3 and set it where I think they will, I’ll be a bit less harsh on this, but really this one looks to be more of the same from the first game.

Originality Rating: Below Average

Addictiveness
This game was wonderfully addicting. From the first part of the case before he even really got to the town I knew I’d finish it in one sitting. Other than getting up to rest my eyes for about ten minutes or so and having to restart the game, I did play straight through. It’s got a great charm to it, and the puzzles are fun even if they aren’t the most challenging ones in the world. I think the game is a lot of fun and it’s a nice change of pace from the more serious games I’ve been playing. It was nice to have a fun game with a bit of challenge to it.

Addictiveness Rating: Incredible

Appeal Factor
The price is right, it’s mostly a puzzle game but with a fun, zany story to go with it, and if you’re not all that interested in playing through the story again you can whip out the puzzles again later. That being said, this game looks like it’s being marketed as more an adventure game, despite its title and contents, when it’s really more a puzzle game with a very small bit of adventure on the side which is more story-telling that leads you through to the puzzles. I think someone thinking this will be a more traditional adventure title will be a bit put off with it and I could see other puzzle game enthusiasts being put off because the puzzles are a bit short and most are fairly easy to figure out really quickly.

Appeal Factor Rating: Mediocre

Miscellaneous
I only had the game freak out on me once, and that was when I had to alt and tab to flip screens to another program to answer someone’s question and then alt tabbed back to the game. My mouse would move around but I couldn’t select anything, couldn’t exit the room, couldn’t get the menu to come up, nothing. I had to kill the game through windows and then start it up again. Luckily the game itself saves very often so I only had to redo one puzzle and I was right back where I’d been when I’d flipped screens.

Other than that one incident I had no issues with the game. My one big complaint was that we didn’t get much of the back story from the first game, just barely enough to get us into this one, and it did take me a number of conversations to figure out what was really going on and why we had to go back to Scoggins. It wasn’t that the case was left unfinished it was the circumstances around the case closing and really that could have been better covered in the initial conversation you have with the guy helping you at the Bureau. Other than that the story really serves as a means of entertainment as you move through to the next set of puzzles and being what it is it excels at it.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Good
Graphics Rating: Above Average
Sound Rating: Very Good
Control and Gameplay Rating: Great
Replayability Rating: Very Good
Balance Rating: Decent
Originality Rating: Below Average
Addictiveness Rating: Incredible
Appeal Factor Rating: Mediocre
Miscellaneous Rating: Great
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresizeWhile I wasn’t thrilled that you really have to play the first title in the series to truly appreciate the bizarre situations in the town in this game, Puzzle Agent 2 still manages to deliver a fun experience with a great cast of bizarre and fun characters, a decent mystery, and over 30 puzzles to solve. I like that you can go back and not play the main game and can just solve puzzles if you want as well and the price is right for the two to three hours it’ll take to get through it. I like the art style and the whole game has a very Coen Brothers feel that I loved. Definitely worth a look.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *