Scoggins, Minnesota is a strange place full of odd people, and the folks over at Telltale Games are revisiting the snowy locale in Puzzle Agent 2. Like its predecessor, this quirky puzzler doesn’t take too many risks, nor does it offer much in the way of incredible puzzle design, but it does throw 30+ brain teasers at you, most of which are fairly enjoyable. While you might not get the biggest bang for your buck, there are plenty of reasons to play Puzzle Agent 2.
You once again fill the shoes of Nelson Tethers, the FBI’s resident puzzle solver. Upon arriving at Scoggins, the sole member of the Department of Puzzle Research is greeted by suspicious townsfolk and quickly undertakes the task of determining why so many people have gone missing. The tale rapidly unravels and becomes a lot more complex than expected. But even with its intricacies and twists, the story itself isn’t as worthy of merit as the characters in it. That’s not to say the plot isn’t notable—you’re bound to get into the narrative as you discover secrets about Scoggins and its people—but the real stars here are Tethers and the many people he encounters. During the course of your investigation, you come across a delightfully superb cast of people, who range from mysterious to sexy to hilarious. And what makes these characters so colorful is their voice work, which is largely impressive and will constantly have you chuckling.
While about half of the game consists of plot development and character interaction, the other half consists of several brain teasers. These start off simple enough, and then the difficulty amps up fairly nicely … and then it gets easier again, only to get surprisingly difficult once more. A major issue I had with the puzzles in this detective game was the inconsistency in the difficulty. I never felt like the game was setting the puzzles up to get progressively tougher. Instead, random difficulty prevails throughout the entirety of Puzzle Agent 2. One moment I was solving a puzzle with ease, and then struggling with one a few minutes later. This not only caused short bursts of frustration, but also confusion as to why the game chose to deliver its puzzles in such a manner.
Difficulty gripes aside, I was impressed by the majority of the game’s puzzles. Most of the content in Puzzle Agent 2 is fairly logical, though a handful of math puzzles are thrown in for good measure. Overall, I had a lot more fun trying to figure out the brain teasers as opposed to the math problems because of their inviting nature. While I was capable of figuring out the mathematical challenges, I felt like these could alienate some gamers, especially people who would rather have a much more free-flowing experience with this type of game.
A lot of what you do in the challenges is typical puzzle game fare. You have to slide blocks around, connect certain items to other objects, and draw lines on the screen to cut through multiple obstacles in a single swipe. Nothing is overly risky, and that’s part of the game’s main problem. Yes, the puzzles are fun, but they are so predictable that you’re never surprised. Luckily, they’re still fairly challenging, and if you want some good, clean fun, there’s plenty to be had in Puzzle Agent 2.
The biggest challenge in Puzzle Agent 2 is refraining from using hints and trying to solve puzzles in one go. Some solutions are instantly detectable, while others require more thought. You can use up to three hints on any given puzzle, but doing so will lower your score once you finish. Multiple attempts also deplete your score, and it’s hard not to feel like a dope when you get a single star rating on some of the game’s more challenging tasks. Apart from ratings, though, you aren’t penalized for using hints or trying more than once.
Visually, Puzzle Agent 2 is enjoyable to look at. The entire game has a nice hand-drawn look to it that’s stylish and full of charm. Character models are excellent, giving you a cast that’s both funny and aesthetically pleasing. Tethers is easily one of the most nervous-looking video game protagonists to come along in quite some time, and his facial expressions and animations are just plain hilarious. There are a few rough spots here and there, and don’t be surprised if the game’s frame rate gets a bit disorderly at times, but for the most part, Puzzle Agent 2 delivers quality visuals that are quirky and stupendous.
As previously mentioned, line delivery is rich and creates an environment that you really come to care about. The game’s music is also fairly good, though it does repeat often. But you probably won’t notice the soundtrack all that much because you’ll be actively listening to what the game’s cast of characters are saying.
In case you haven’t already noticed, I really dig Puzzle Agent 2. But what I dig most about it is its characters and storytelling. The puzzles are fun, if inconsistent, but the performances of each of the game’s characters makes the experience for me. That’s not to say Puzzle Agent 2 is bad from a gameplay standpoint—because it’s not. The game is a fun puzzler that should keep you busy for the better part of four hours, but it does seem to overstay its welcome even despite its short length. If you want to have a few good laughs all the while solving some fiendish brain teasers, Puzzle Agent 2 is definitely a worthwhile purchase.