Puzzle Agent 2 Preview
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 29th Jun 2011
When we were first introduced to the original Puzzle Agent there was really no indication that it was intended to be the opening salvo in a new series of puzzle games, and because of that, when we reached the end only to discover that its ending was of the cliffhanger variety, there was genuine concern that we might never obtain the closure -- and the answers -- that we very much wanted. Which is why the announcement of the sequel in the form of Puzzle Agent 2 was such a welcome surprise at E3!
Granted, it takes a little getting used to when you hear the protagonist introduce himself as "Nelson Tethers, FBI Puzzle Research" and you hear the local law opine that people disappear all the time in Scoggins, Minnesota, and it is nothing to be worried about... But once you get past that little bump on the road to immersion, it just gets better and better -- even if it feels odd to be saying that about a game whose graphic style reminds us of the hand-drawn comics that we used to make when we were kids.
It is easy to understand the confusion that the original game and its ending caused when you consider that Telltale Games introduced it as the first offering in a pilot program of standalone episodes -- but it seems that they intended all along to turn any of the games that were a success into the episodic game series style that they are best known for.
Based upon the work of former Telltale employee Graham Annable, the games tell the story of Agent Nelson Tethers, who is the sole staff member of the FBI's Department of Puzzle Research, and who spends his days analyzing puzzles and sending odd memos to his superiors promoting the idea that puzzle-solving would be a useful tool in solving some of the high-profile cases for which the FBI is well known.
If you are forming the impression that we are talking about puzzles -- even crossword puzzles -- well excellent! You are getting the right idea! And while it seems like a bit of a stretch when you read it so boldly laid out here in words, the actual game somehow makes it all a workable and even believable scenario!
Despite the seemingly genuine voice that he uses in his memos to the higher-ups, nobody is more shocked or surprised than Nelson when one of his memos results in an actual field assignment, as he is sent to investigate the cause of the unexpected hiatus in production of the White House eraser supply at the factory in Minnesota.
The Puzzle Agent series was designed so that players of all ages and skill levels can enjoy it, as it includes a built-in hint system if you get stuck on one of the puzzles, allowing gamers to follow additional clues that are purchased with pieces of gum (seriously) of which you will have a reasonable supply because chewing gum helps Nelson think . . .
The puzzles that are central to the story are intended to be simple, but there is an option to take on puzzles that are a bit more difficult if you find the game too easy. Depending on what platform you are using the act of solving the puzzles will be either touch-screen-based or mouse-driven, and this time there is the added pressure of a Mulder-and-Scully like conspiracy and a rebellious spirit that we never suspected Nelson capable of, as he returns to the scene of the crime in Brrr -- we mean Scoggins -- without the permission or authorization of his boss, as Nelson is bent upon solving the mystery for once and for all!
If you are a fan of the first game but thought that the puzzles in it were a little too basic and simple, you will be pleased to learn that this time around, they are more logical and open-ended, and there is a bit more variety in the puzzle types as well!
While we did not get to see the entire game at the Telltale booth, we saw enough to feel reassured by the instantly recognizable art of Graham Annable, and the widely expanded depth of play. It seems that Telltale made good on its promises to take to heart the advice that was provided by gamers and fans at their request -- the dialogue system, expanded character depth, and (as we already mentioned) the better variety and structure of the puzzles fully supports the notion.
Observations and Conclusions
When the game releases tomorrow it will launch exactly one year to the day from the launch date of the first game in the series, and finally provide the answers and closure to the mystery of the erasers, the hidden people, and the sudden disappearances that the local law seems so unconcerned over.
Despite the fact that the Department of Puzzle Research officially closed the case at the request of the higher-ups, Nelson cannot shake his feeling that there was something deeper and far more sinister than the simple explanation that was used to terminate the investigation -- but when he takes those suspicions to his superiors we learn that they are mysteriously uninterested in anything he has to say about the matter or his feelings.
Officially instructed to drop it, Nelson cannot -- attaboy Nelson! -- so he takes some vacation time, and returns to Scoggins to continue the investigation on his own time and, presumably, his own dime. When he arrives it seems that all of the good will that he built on his previous visit has vanished, and not only that, but the disappearances have continued!
There is a definite sense of connection to iconic entertainment vehicles like Fargo and the X-Files, as the game pays homage to those two shows in many hidden and not-so-hidden ways.
If you never had the opportunity to play the original game there is some good news on that account, because when you buy your copy of the sequel you will receive a copy (or code, depending on how you buy it) of the first game as well, and how about that?
With the improved variety of puzzles, the greater breadth of challenge, and an over-all improved game interface and play experience, we feel pretty confident in concluding that the sequel will be at least as interesting and fun as the original, and probably more so!
Official Title: Puzzle Agent 2
Developing Studio: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: June 30, 2011
Platforms: iPad / iPhone / Mac / PC / Mobile
Ratings: E (for Everyone)