Puzzle Agent 1 and 2: A Review
Puzzle Agent is a different kind of adventure game. While most adventure games have environmental puzzles that often involve combining a thing with a thing and then using it on another thing, Puzzle Agent's puzzles are far more abstract and not very related to the overall story, save for a few. Since Puzzle Agent The First is included with Puzzle Agent 2 when you buy them on Steam, I will be reviewing them both as a singular package.
The Puzzle Agent games tell the story of Nelson Tethers, an FBI agent in the fictional Puzzle Division. He is sent to a small town in Minnesota named Scoggins, where their world-famous eraser factory has been closed down due to an "accident". Other than erasers, this town's other hobby is puzzles, since every person you meet in town will challenge you to solve some sort of puzzle before they will give you the information you need. It seems contrived (and it is), but the game is very self-aware about it.
The puzzles are inconsistent. Incredibly inconsistent, both in quality and in difficulty. Often you will use all three hints on one puzzle and submit multiple wrong answers, but then get 10 stars on the next puzzle without even having to think about it. The first Puzzle Agent's puzzles can range from the sort of difficult where you don't really know what you are doing and feel like it wasn't explained very well, to the sort of difficult where you feel smart afterwards. Puzzle Agent 2's puzzles range from patronizingly easy to moderately challenging. While there a lot of puzzles that are re-used (sometimes multiple times) in both games, overall Puzzle Agent 2 felt a whole hell of a lot easier, which can be a good or bad thing depending on what you are looking for. There is also the possibility that the only reason they were easier is because Puzzle Agent The First made me better at solving puzzles. I don't really know.
The game's writing is very well done, but it's the voice acting that makes the characters so well-defined. It's hard to describe good voice acting, but when it's this good you can really tell. The game's story is mostly told through Nelson's conversations with the townsfolk, which usually end with them telling you that there is another character somewhere else who can give you more information. That being said, the games don't feel repetitive, but you do get the feeling at the end that you didn't do that much except ask a bunch of different people the same questions until the ending popped up and things got interesting. This is not necessarily a complaint, since when you are playing the game the story really hooks you in . I played the two games in one sitting each, which says a lot since I am not the kind of person who plays the same game for a long time.
As a package, these games tell a delightfully strange story, while mixing in a decent amount of good puzzles, and the bad puzzles are saved by the fact that they usually don't take very long. Four stars!