Amusing, alarming, strange, perplexing, gnomes.
Nelson Tethers is a new IP from Telltale games, a company with a pedigree for developing and reinvigorating adventure game franchises with panache and humor. While Telltale is known as one of the few developers to succeed in producing games episodically, Tethers is a standalone title based upon the unusual comic series Grickle, the brainchild of animator and all around pleasant Canadian Graham Annable.
Nelson Tethers is a puzzle game in the vein of the professor Layton series, and features a dynamic array of often challenging, always satisfying and occasionally obtuse brainteasers set against the backdrop of a rural town named Scoggins. What separates tethers from the drudgery of the typical puzzle fare is both it's unique synergy of what Telltale does best: an engaging story, witty dialogue and intangible charm with a delightfully dark atmosphere drawn from the likes of Fargo and Twin Peaks.
While the puzzles themselves generally strike the correct balance between being challenging enough to interest the player and short enough not to frustrate him, some can be hindered by fuzzy descriptions leaving the player frustrated as he is forced to learn the specific rule set through trial and error.
The benefit of having each puzzle be unique is that each feels fresh, the drawback is that each is it's own challenge. This eliminates a gradual learning curve ( though a new variant on a previous puzzle will pop up once or twice) meaning that depending on player skill, you may end up hitting a wall more often than you might like. The game does offer a fairly forgiving hint system, with the only concern being a loss of personal pride. Generally it will allow you to continue past a tricky riddle without spending too much time wrestling with it, and without letting you feel like a hapless buffoon.
While Tethers may intermittently become confounding, you will undoubtedly be compelled to ponder, cogitate and mull your way through the more challenging segments just to extend your stay in it's charming ambiance, and solve the mystery of Scoggins Minnesota.