GAME NAME: Puzzle Agent
DEVELOPER(S): Telltale Games
PUBLISHER(S): Telltale Games
RELEASE DATE(S): June 30, 2010
Telltale games, best known for their creations such as the likes of Sam, Max and Guybrush Threepwood are back again to introduce us to Puzzle Agent Nelson Tethers and the unique world he inhabits. Tethers is a agent in the FBI’s Puzzle Research Division who soon finds himself sent to Scoggins, Minnesota for his first bit of field work. It seems an accident has caused the town’s eraser factory, which supplies all of the erasers for the White House, to shut down. Shortly after arriving in Scoggins, Tethers finds out is may be in over his head.
The story that unfolds throughout the course of the game rides a line between serious mystery and dark comedy. As Tethers investigation heats up he meets all sorts of quirky characters all of whom seemingly have some sort of secret that they are hiding under a blanket of puzzles waiting to be solved. I’ll never feel the same way about Gnomes again.
Puzzle Agent is a game that given its name, lives or dies by the strength of the puzzles that the player will be trying to figure out and thankfully the game is full of fun and innovative head scratchers to keep anyone happy. Everything you need to accomplish throughout the game must be done by solving puzzles, some simple, others not so much. The puzzles themselves range in difficulty but thankfully never enter the realm of throwing your keyboard through your monitor. The game offers up the options to use hints (up to three) in order to assist in the puzzle solving and you also have unlimited tries. Of course getting a puzzle solved on your first try without the use of any hints grants you the best grade however the grading system isn’t really implemented into any larger reward system, that is to say, you will experience the same game whether you get the highest rating on every puzzle or the lowest, it would have been nice to have something like alternate endings or other such differences.
Indie comic book scribe Graham Annable provides the featured art style of the game and it really is something to behold. The characters and environments all have a kind of hand drawn, pencil sketch look to them. At times the camera will move to a close up and you will see the imperfections in the sketched lines. When I first saw screens of the game I was a little unsure about the style but after about 30 seconds of playing it had won me over completely. I would dare say its one of the best looking games of the year, stylistically speaking of course.
The sound design of the game also deserves some major props. The voice acting is (unsurprisingly) fantastic and the music works well with the muted color scheme in creating the atmosphere. Listening to Tethers made me think of one Phillip J. Fry of Futurama fame, only you know a bit brighter. Basically the game looks and sounds brilliantly.
Fans of Telltale’s point and click adventure games are in for a surprise as Puzzle Agent strays a bit from the bread and butter of past games for a more subtle point and click feel then full fledged games such as Sam and Max or the Monkey Island series. When Tethers enters an environment he isn’t free to walk around but instead must click on whatever characters or other points of interest are in a given room, which normally then leads to a puzzle. It still has an adventure game feel, just without the same sense of freedom. However with the lack of free movement also comes a lack of getting as stuck as one would in other adventure games. There is no real backtracking or moving in circles as you will always know your next move. Where you need to go and who you need to talk to is almost always told to you so you wont spend an hour wandering around not knowing what to do. Normally such a game could be a bad thing, babying the gamer isn’t fun for anyone however due to the strength of the puzzles and fun of the story it all works out in the end and the players still gets a fun 4-5 hours of puzzle solving goodness.
Puzzle Agent is a game that will sneak right up on you and become a favorite. The puzzles, the art, the story, it all adds up to form something pretty unique and very fun. The downfalls in this one are hard to come by, in fact the only one I can think of is that the replay-ability is pretty slim. Once you’ve completed a puzzle there is no reason to revisit it and once you’ve completed them all the only reason to replay the game would be to experience the story again, which isn’t entirely a bad idea. Anyway, Puzzle Agent is obviously another gold star for Telltale Games report card and hopefully we can get more stories featuring Nelson Tethers in the future. Oh and remember to always keep plenty of chewing gum around, your going to need it!
A copy of the game was provided to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes.