The Puzzle Agent series is Telltale Game’s response to Level 5’s highly popular Professor Layton games. With Puzzle Agent 2, Telltale has generally improved on their formula, though there are a few aspects of the game that feel a little stale. Overall, though, they’ve crafted an enjoyable puzzle game, but it’s not going to make a convert out of someone who doesn’t like puzzle games in the first place.
The world of Puzzle Agent is based on the Grickle comics by Graham Annable. While I’m not too familiar with his work, the game uses a 2D art style that’s very similar to his books. Even though the character drawings are simplistic and stylized in the game, they have a nice artistic touch to them. I especially like Telltale’s use of colors.
You play as Nelson Tethers, an FBI agent in the fictional Puzzle Investigation Division. In the first Puzzle Agent, you were sent to the town of Scroggins, Minnesota to investigate why its world-class eraser factory had shut down. At the end of the original game, the case is “closed” but Nelson feels there still are supernatural loose ends. So at the start of the sequel, Nelson decides to return to Scroggins on his vacation time, and complete the investigation. As a result of this tightly coupled story, it likely would be difficult to follow without having played the original title first.
Because you’re returning to the same city as the first game, a lot of the art is reused. There are some new locations and characters, but a lot of the primary characters are recurring roles from the first game. While it was nice to go back and find out what really happened, sending Nelson back to Scroggins takes away from the uniqueness of the first game. At times it feels like jokes and situations are recycled, which is a bit disappointing.
One of the problems with the first game was that some of the puzzles have poor explanations of the rules. There are a few instances, for example, where it’s unclear why potential alternate solutions are rejected. Thankfully, this problem is mostly rectified in Puzzle Agent 2. There was one instance where the interface was confusing (crossing animals across a river), but overall the puzzles do a good job of explaining what they’re looking for.
Unfortunately, a side effect of this is the puzzles do seem a bit less varied than the first game. There are a few repeats of a puzzle that has you rearrange items to either create a clear path or block windows, for example. So the trade off is less variety for more clarity. I would’ve loved to have the best of both worlds, but I think this is a fair compromise.
One thing that some players may find frustrating is that there’s more of a reliance on math-based puzzles. One of them has you rearrange an equation and utilizes an integral symbol, which is something taught in calculus. Another puzzle requires you to have an understanding of non-base 10 number systems, and yet another requires you to understand a series of numbers that most will need to look up online.
Luckily, the game does a good job of splitting up the puzzles between optional and required. Only a subset of the puzzles must be solved to complete the game, the others you can skip if you so desire. Generally, the optional puzzles are the more challenging ones. So if you aren’t exactly the best at solving puzzles, you should still be able to complete the main story. Once the game is complete, it allows you to still go back and do any puzzles you missed, and there are also a couple of bonus puzzles which unlock after completing the main story.
Puzzle Agent 2 also has a sprinkling of adventure game concepts, but they’re mostly used to advance the story. When you meet a new character, you can converse with them from a list of questions to ask. Some dialogue options have a puzzle piece icon next to them, which means asking about that will start a puzzle for you. You do also point and click to tell Nelson where to go, but there isn’t really any pixel hunting. The only thing you carry in your inventory is pieces of gum, which you can use to get hints on puzzles.
Overall, you can expect to spend about 4-5 hours completing the game. Some players might take longer if they want to stay away from hints, and the puzzle geniuses out there surely will smoke my time. If you skip the optional puzzles, you can likely finish the game much faster, but where’s the fun in that? At $10 or less (depending on the platform), it’s a reasonable value given the length of the game. Ultimately, Puzzle Agent 2 is an enjoyable puzzle game. It’s not going to blow you away, but it should provide a fun and quick diversion on a rainy day.
VERDICT: HAPPY CANARY
Puzzle Agent 2 is available now on PC, Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Reviews appear every Friday on Game Canary. The Game Canary review system is detailed here.
Next week, I’ll take a look at Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon.
Categories: ReviewsTags: Happy Canaries, iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC, Puzzle Agent 2