Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
When traditional methods fail, the FBI send in the Puzzle Research Division. This elite unit already cracked a bizarre case set in an eraser factory - battling against the machinations of an evil cult and the twisted inhabitants of a small mountain town. However, Agent Nelson Tethers just can't let a few loose ends go... and after taking an extended vacation, decides to return to Scoggins, Minnesota to put an end to the missing persons mystery once and for all.
We'll get to the juicy storyline and setting in due time, but we'll need to lay out the basics first. Puzzle Agent 2 is technically a minigame collection that's stuffed with a range of brainteasers to solve. There's a nice balance of the sublime and the ridiculous, since many of the puzzles rely on pure mathematics and raw logic, whereas others are designed to make you think laterally (resulting in a fair few facepalm moments when the solution clicks into place). There are also a few visual puzzles to contend with every once in a while, and you'll doubtlessly groan at the reappearance of sliding tiles and interlocking rings. Once you've got your answer ready, it's a simple matter of sending the solution through the rigorous FBI vetting process and seeing how many thousands of taxpayer dollars you've ended up spending. Naturally accuracy and speed will grant you the highest ratings.
Puzzle Agent 2 is absolutely spot on in terms of difficulty and progression. The mandatory story puzzles are all eminently solvable, but are complimented by a wide range of optional minigames that provide the intellectual meat of the package. These secondary objectives are frequently incredibly tricky or extremely lateral, though making them completely optional serves to remove most of the potential frustration. You can also request a few hints if you get stuck, and hunting down second hand chewing gum (eww...) will provide you with plenty of ammunition. Of course, using these hints drastically reduces your agent rating as well as your dignity.
The puzzles certainly aren't perfect, mind. From a mechanical standpoint, it's galling that the objectives aren't displayed on-screen while you're solving a particular minigame - especially those with complex rules - and many of the puzzles force you to entirely reset the screen if you make a mistake. In addition, some of the traditional slider puzzles (yeah, that old chestnut) are also extremely clunky to drag around. You may run into bizarre localisation issue that involves American currency values, which will leave a few Brits stumped without some tactical Wiki action.
You will ultimately forgive Puzzle Agent 2 for its few sins, which is mainly down to the strength of its visuals. Graham Annable's unique art style looks like a sketchy crayon drawing brought to life, and while it may seem crude at first, it's a delight to immerse oneself in the deceptively detailed backgrounds and charming character portraits. Many locations are recycled from the original game, but since it's a close sequel, we're inclined to cut Puzzle Agent 2 some slack.
This charming art design hides a deadly secret, though. Something is preternaturally wrong in the town of Scoggins - and all of its inhabitants are a little off. After a while, vague uneasiness turns into full-blown creepiness as non-sequitur comments and politely worded threats hint at a vague yet dangerous conspiracy. Something is badly amiss... and everyone knows what it is but you. The script contains plenty of gentle humour to help keep things light, but Scoggins wouldn't seem out of place in Deadly Premonition or Twin Peaks. In fact, it's clear that David Lynch's bizarre series provides much of the inspiration behind Puzzle Agent 2.
The urge to discover exactly what's going on provides an addictive draw that you'll rarely find in all but the finest puzzle games - and though all of the characters, story and detective work are just decoration and context for the puzzles rather than gameplay elements, Puzzle Agent 2 feels like a thrilling adventure rather than a minigame collection. What's more, the thrill and satisfaction of solving each individual puzzle is amplified tenfold with the revelations they bring.
As always, we have to answer the age-old question of whether value for money. You'll need between three and six hours (dependent on your brainpower) to see everything it has to offer, and though the PC version is appropriately priced at ten dollars, iPad and iPhone owners will be able to save a bundle on the App Store. Since content doesn't differ between platforms, the decision is obvious.
- Good mix of logic, visual and lateral puzzles
- Excellent, creepy storyline with plenty of humour
- Charming unique art style
- Some mechanical gripes
- Plenty of recycled locations and characters
- Nil replay value, much cheaper on iOS
The Short Version: Puzzle Agent 2 provides another bountiful bevy of puzzles wrapped in a creepy and addictive storyline. Highly recommended if you crave mental stimulation, though beware that the PC version is a little pricey.