thewoj's Puzzle Agent (PC) review

Avatar image for thewoj
  • Score:
  • thewoj wrote this review on .
  • 25 out of 26 Giant Bomb users found it helpful.
  • This review received 7 comments

Layton's Next Apprentice: Nelson Tethers

The first release in Telltale Games' pilot program, Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent is a game that catches your eye immediately. The art style is unique and sets it apart from the crowd. Seeing the game's ad splashed across the top of the Steam store homepage, it stands out in amongst the ads for things like Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. A goofy looking man, wearing a winter cap, brandishing a revolver alongside a red gnome, against a backdrop of snow, lets you know that this is not your standard mystery. Once diving in to the game, it's not hard to see the puzzle-based adventure game very much in the style of the Professor Layton games dressed up by a plot that is just as much of an old-fashioned mystery as it is a Twin Peaks-esque head-scratcher. Nelson Tethers is the star agent of the United States' Puzzle Research Division, a unit within the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He is chosen to investigate the unexplained shutdown of the Scoggins Eraser Factory - the default supplier for the White House's erasers. Throughout the course of the game, Nelson finds himself following the classic adventure game path of moving through new locations, meeting new people, and obtaining clues that can explain the recent shutdown of the factory. Once he finds out that the factory's doors are closed for reasons far more sinister than he once thought, Nelson has to decide whether he is in over his head, or if this is a puzzle only he can solve. 
It's unfortunate then that the puzzles of this game often leave something to be desired. While minor complaints like a lack of information on the menu screen (such as inventory), or relatively large hit boxes on some doorways (a nuisance for Layton fans who are used to clicking everywhere in search of something new), there is one glaring issue that Puzzle Agent has. In a game that takes so much from Layton's handbook, it is disappointing that it does not have the complexity or variety that those puzzles have. Within the three hours it took me to finish the game, I realized I had to play multiple variations on the same puzzle several times. Many of the puzzles were easy as well, with the only challenge often being unclear directions. This lack of variety and clarity ends up being the game's biggest flaw, and it feels like the puzzles were often set aside in favor of developing the story.
The story is the real highlight of this game, alongside the wonderful artwork of Graham Annable. Telltale Games are masters of the craft when it comes to the stories in adventure games, and this one spins a yarn that will leave you hanging on by a thread. It is full of great humor and wonderful characters, many of whom are more than meets the eye. Nelson himself has a quick wit and a wry sense of humor that carries him throughout the story as a charming protagonist who is hoping to get his next big break. The voicing on the characters is well done also, and it feels like they are really channeling the northern Midwesterners (Yoopers) for a lot of their inspiration. However, as this is only a pilot release, that means many characters and parts of the story do not get the expansion that they deserve. Being a pilot, this does hold the potential for future releases which build on the world and puzzles this initial outing has set forth. 
All things considered, I really enjoyed the time I spent with Puzzle Agent, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of puzzles, especially those of the Layton variety. As mentioned before, this is only a pilot game for Telltale's program, so if it is successful, I think we can look forward to seeing more adventures of the affable Nelson Tethers. If nothing else, this game deserves a purchase so that Telltale gets a chance to iterate on the idea and create the adventure that the Puzzle Agent deserves.

Other reviews for Puzzle Agent (PC)

    Amusing, alarming, strange, perplexing, gnomes. 0

    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 dyna...

    3 out of 3 found this review helpful.

    Eraserhead 0

    There is one thing we need to get off the bat right at the beginning of this review. Puzzle Agent isn't like Professor Layton or gives homage to Professor Layton. It is Professor Layton. Everything about the pacing of the game and how the story develops is taken directly from the Professor Layton games. Is this a bad thing? No, not really. But it's something that needs to be said.   Besides the Professor Layton aspects of the game, how is Puzzle Agent? Well it's pretty good. It's flawed, but...

    2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.