Giant Bomb Review

39 Comments

Puzzle Agent 2 Review

3
  • PC
  • IPHN

Puzzle Agent 2 takes the low-key weirdness of the original in fittingly strange new directions, but the puzzles themselves lack bite and variety.

Nelson Tethers.

As much of a feel-good story as it has been to see Telltale find independent success both reviving the moribund format of the classic adventure game and spearheading honest-to-goodness episodic gaming, it's fair to say that the mechanical similarities from one Telltale series to the next has led to a certain amount of adventure fatigue. It's part of what made the original Puzzle Agent, released as part of a pilot program, so refreshing, though it's not the only thing. While inarguably derivative of Level 5's Professor Layton series, the puzzle-first format still felt like a nice change of pace, and the Lynchian-lite story of an unconventional FBI agent investigating potentially supernatural weirdness in quirky small-town Minnesota paired nicely with the textured style of artist Graham Annable's doodles.

A corker of a cliffhanger ending left me hoping the Puzzle Agent story would survive beyond the pilot format, and to this end, Puzzle Agent 2 makes good. Understandably unsatisfied with the conclusion of his last case, an obsessed FBI Puzzle Agent Nelson Tethers defies orders and returns on his own nickel to the secretive hamlet of Scoggins, Minnesota to further investigate the disappearance of the foreman at the local Presidential eraser factory, as well as the nature of the creepy little forest gnomes known locally as the Hidden People.

It picks up the story in a way that makes the original Puzzle Agent required playing to make much sense. Not a particularly big deal, since it was relatively short and immensely enjoyable. Plus, Puzzle Agent 2 expands on the folksy mythology in a number of ways that make the original taste like weak tea, with the weirdness expanding well beyond the confines of Scoggins. Some questions are answered, but those answers lead to even more puzzling questions, and entirely new, equally surreal mysteries are introduced as well. I'm reluctant to go into any particulars here, simply because it's so enjoyable to see it all unfold with fresh eyes.

Creepy Spaceman.

As much as I enjoyed the continued adventures of Agent Tethers, it's a damn shame that the experience is undermined by weak, repetitive puzzle designs. Beyond chatting with other characters and watching the story unfold, the puzzles represent the bulk of the experience here. Of the 30-odd discrete puzzles contained within, it felt like the majority of the puzzles fell into one of four or five very specific formats.

The bigger issue is that I rarely found the puzzles particularly challenging. The game grades you based on how many attempts you take to successfully solve a puzzle, as well as how many optional hints you indulge in. More often than not, I was solving puzzles on my first try, no hints, A+. The rare exceptions tended to require specific knowledge outside of the game, which, frankly, felt like a cheat. On more than one occasion, I found myself second-guessing a solution because it seemed far too obvious, only to find that my solution was correct. Don't take this as bragging, it's just that the original Puzzle Agent was consistently more successful at stumping me, and that challenge is what makes solving puzzles fundamentally enjoyable. I also felt like the puzzles weren't integrated into the story as elegantly as they were in the original, which took greater care in contextualizing the puzzles.

My experience with Puzzle Agent 2 wasn't a complete wash, and with the way it leaves the story, I hope it doesn't represent the end for the weird world of Nelson Tethers. The $10 price tag and the brief run-time makes it a pretty low-risk proposition, even if it doesn't satisfy the puzzle-solving compulsion as well as it could have.

39 Comments
Edited by MEATBALL

I think PA1 suffered from the same problems. I'll likely pick it up when it's cheaper.

Posted by ckeats

I played 1 & 2 back to back. took about 8 hours, and I loved it.

As a single game though I could see it being almost too short.

Posted by AlwaysBeClothing

I think the puzzles in PA2 were easier and there was a bit more rehash but it was fun to go back and visit the same characters. Scoggins lost a little bit of mystery with the explanations though.

Posted by beard_of_zeus

I felt the same way. I loved the story and weirdness of Scoggins, but the puzzles were mainly pretty easy and not varied enough. It's still an enjoyable enough time though, especially for only $10.

Posted by B_Heart

I loved the first game for the art style and story, so more of the same with the same type of puzzles is good for me. I'll be buying this soon.

Posted by JimmyJackJones

@AlwaysBeClothing said:

I think the puzzles in PA2 were easier and there was a bit more rehash but it was fun to go back and visit the same characters. Scoggins lost a little bit of mystery with the explanations though.

My thoughts exactly. It felt shorter than the first one too, but that could just be because I pretty much played the first one straight through, and played this one in a couple short bursts. I still would love to see a Puzzle Agent 3, though.

Posted by XtremePudim

i played PA 1 and started, but did not finish, PA 2, but from what i've seen so far i agree with Ryan, the puzzles seem easier, except the non-story critical puzzles (that may be the ones that depend on outside knoledge), and the game's story and mood continues to be excellent and creepy, specially the sound design.

P.S:i dont wanna seem like a dick but when talking about Level 5, you linked to the ZX Spectrum game not the company.

Posted by endaround

The first PA if steam is to believed took me 100 minutes to do all the puzzles and finish the game.  Got it on the winter steam sale for like $1 and at that price its great value.  At $10 it becomes more questionable especially if its easier because I found the first one relatively easy.  Though by far the game the scared me the most of any I've ever played.

Posted by louiedog

I played Puzzle Agent 1 for the first time about a month ago and then played this one last week, so I feel like I was able to pretty accurately compare both. The puzzles are definitely easier in the sequel and I didn't enjoy them as much. I also felt like the story fell apart about about 2/3 through the game. It was still enjoyable, and worth playing at $10, but I did feel a bit disappointed. I still love Scoggins and Nelson Tethers though, and I'd like to see more from the franchise.

Posted by warmonked

bummer! I'll still probably play it for the story though. I hope that gets resolved satisfactorily.

Posted by djames216

I enjoy the Layton games and enjoyed Puzzle Agent 1 for the most part.  I recall that at least 1 puzzle in PA1 didn't explain its conditions for solving it sufficiently.  This meant it was unsolvable unless you somehow found out the missing info you should be told in order to try and solve it.  I forget which puzzle it is, but it has made me very reluctant to pick PA2.

Posted by sixghost

That's probably what this game deserves. I really hope they get back on track for PA3, the story in 2 really let me down.

Posted by MisterMouse

Yes I would have to agree, none of the puzzles really wowed me, and they lacked variety. I felt like there was a greater variety of puzzles in the first game.

Posted by Korne

I completely agree, the puzzles are lacking, and the story doesn't exactly pay off in the weird way that the first did.

Posted by gosukiller

I'll agree that this is a 3 star game to most people, but I totally loved both games and they are both 5-stars to me, especially at 10 euros for both. 
 
That's like 0 euros!

Posted by Ehker

The first puzzle in the Quick Look gave me plenty of concern about the quality. Like the:

6,3,4,X, what should X be?

Pfft, not that it doesn't lead to over thinking it, but still... come on! They should be better and more entertaining then that one.

Posted by The_Nubster
@djames216 said:
                

 I enjoy the Layton games and enjoyed Puzzle Agent 1 for the most part.  I recall that at least 1 puzzle in PA1 didn't explain its conditions for solving it sufficiently.  This meant it was unsolvable unless you somehow found out the missing info you should be told in order to try and solve it.  I forget which puzzle it is, but it has made me very reluctant to pick PA2.

Of all the complaints I hear about the first game, very few people mention this one, but I had the exact same problems. After reading and re-reading the rules over and over, I'd end up with a shitty grade because one of the key rules was completely left out of the explanation. It made me stop playing and it got really frustrating, so if the second one is the same, I don't really want to buy it.
Posted by artofwar420

I love the everything around the game/puzzles a lot. I'll pick this up.

Posted by endless_void

This review is SO spot on.

Edited by onarum

I absolutely hated the way it ended, but all in all it was still an enjoyable experience.
 
HEAVY SPOILERS!! don't click this if you care.

Posted by Cirdain

I liked it. By then I again I did do this.  

@kud12001 said:

I played 1 & 2 back to back. took about 8 hours, and I loved it.

As a single game though I could see it being almost too short.

Posted by Floppypants

I was able to buy Puzzle Agent 1 & 2 on Steam, during their summer sale, for about $9 total. Regardless of Puzzle Agent 2's flaws, I think it's hard to complain given the bargain price point. You can't even buy the original Professor Layton for $10, and that game is over three years old.

Posted by bkbroiler

Huh. Wasn't expecting this. I saw this game getting some bad reviews in other places, but Ryan seemed to really be liking it from what he said on the podcasts, so I figured they were WRONG. Interesting!

Online
Posted by fox01313

Granted I thought that the puzzles weren't as diverse as the first one, I thought that the story/acting as well as the price definitely put it for me in the 4/5 range if I had to rate it. Just glad to see the small indie games like this getting more attention as they are well worth the time to dive into.

Posted by Vonocourt

As much as the puzzles were ehh, I'm more interested in the story. To the point where I wish they'd forgo the whole game part and just crank out a animated series on it, no increase in frames of animation necessary.

Cuz really, unless they just keep throwing even crazier stuff out there and kind of ignoring the past stuff, they have a lot of holes to fill in. It's hard to see them doing that while at the same time providing new craziness.

Posted by wordfalling

I'd have to agree, with the first I needed to get out that chewing gum more frequently to figure out the mechanics of the puzzle. With the sequel I only needed to twice. The new characters were great but it seemed like the depth of dialogue was more shallow than in the first. I hope the series continues but it would be nice if there were more variety in the puzzles and seriously, more Sheriff Bahg.

Posted by 234r2we232
@bkbroiler said:

Huh. Wasn't expecting this. I saw this game getting some bad reviews in other places, but Ryan seemed to really be liking it from what he said on the podcasts, so I figured they were WRONG. Interesting!

I always get this impression form Ryan that he spends a lot of time reading popular reviews when forming his "professional" opinion.
Posted by Zamir

well, that took long to review

Posted by Gerhabio

That's a darn shame, will probably pick it up later on.

Posted by Krisgebis

Didn't they flat out promise, that the puzzles would be tighter, harder and more varied after the first one? I know PA2 didn't get announced right away, but I'm sure GB discussed the announcement from Telltale, that they had partnered up with a professionel "puzzle creator", on the Giantbomb.

Posted by PrioritySeven

@sofacitysweetheart said:

@bkbroiler said:

Huh. Wasn't expecting this. I saw this game getting some bad reviews in other places, but Ryan seemed to really be liking it from what he said on the podcasts, so I figured they were WRONG. Interesting!

I always get this impression form Ryan that he spends a lot of time reading popular reviews when forming his "professional" opinion.

How so?

Posted by meatsounds

I actually found the puzzles in PA2 harder than in the first one, which wasn't hard since the first one was laughably easy. But on any construal the puzzles are the weakest part of the package.

Posted by DerekDanahy

Finished the first one after hearing Ryan raving about it. Too bad how this one turned out.

Posted by Dallas_Raines

@PrioritySeven:

Ignore sofacitysweetheart, all he does on the site is troll.

Posted by Surkov

I just finished the first one last night and thought it was excellent. Couple of the puzzle I felt completely lost on (The waiter remembering the meals, the fish and the key), but for the majority of the puzzles I felt appropriately challenge.  
 
My experience so far in Puzzle Agent 2 is easier puzzles but funnier dialogue. Still enjoying it though  

Posted by dropabombonit

Got it for cheap in the steam sale so I would give it a 4 star but for $10 it would be a 3 star

Posted by Milkman

@sofacitysweetheart said:

@bkbroiler said:

Huh. Wasn't expecting this. I saw this game getting some bad reviews in other places, but Ryan seemed to really be liking it from what he said on the podcasts, so I figured they were WRONG. Interesting!

I always get this impression form Ryan that he spends a lot of time reading popular reviews when forming his "professional" opinion.

That's both retarded and insulting. Good job.

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Posted by gerp

This also come with a free copy of puzzle agent one if you buy it from steam.

Posted by ThePickle

I think it's just that I played them both back to back but the two games just run together for me.