What do you get when you cross the eccentricity of Pink Panther’s Jacques Clouseau with the inquisitiveness of Twin Peaks’ Dale Cooper? You get Nelson Tethers, the charismatic protagonist of Telltale’s new point-and-click adventure, Puzzle Agent. Tethers is the only employee of the FBI’s neglected Puzzle Research Division, and his first real field assignment is to head to Scoggins, Minnesota, and solve the mystery of an eraser factory’s sudden stop in production. This small town is peculiarly obsessed with puzzles, so it’s up to Tethers to wade through the lot of them and finally figure out what’s happened to the town’s only industry.
In order to get to the bottom of the mystery, you roam around the sleepy, snow-capped town on a snowmobile and chat with residents, shop owners, and local law enforcement by clicking around with your mouse and asking plenty of questions along the way. But some of the long-running conversations, necessary to unlock new puzzles, can become tedious, and there’s no real way to skip through scenes without repeatedly pressing Return. On the flip side, it’s easy to get engrossed in the game’s campy storyline--which features excellent voice acting--so overall, you won’t be bored.
Go ahead, talk to the creepy man. It's just a game, right.
The puzzles test your cognitive skills using clever variations of classic logic games. In one, you have to put together security photos in the order they were taken based on the frequency of footprints. In others, you strategically place logs on a map so that Tethers can guide his snowmobile to his hotel, and help the waitress at the local diner figure out who ordered what based on a set of riddles.
The puzzles start off fairly easy, but they quickly get very challenging. In the third puzzle at the hotel, we had to “read between the lines” of a code that was left behind by a hotel clerk--a puzzle that really forced us to think outside of the box. Sometimes, the clues at the beginning of the puzzle weren’t enough, so we found ourselves using up all three of our allowed hints for each puzzle. And when you reach the point of using your third hint, we’d prefer that it be more obvious than it was because…yes, we’ll admit it…there were a few times when that final hint still left us stumped.
The other reason you can’t rely too heavily on the hint system is that Tethers can’t do the heavy lifting for you without chewing gum to help him focus, and--you guessed it--the town of Scoggins is all out. You have to help Tethers collect stale pieces of ABC (already been chewed) gum scattered around the game’s environments to access more hints. If you run out of gum, you run out of hints. Though it might seem sort of unforgiving, this silly nuance actually gives the game more depth because you’re not just simply clicking around and having conversations. It’s your choice to either try to solve the puzzles on your own or hunt for ABC gum.
Though the puzzles can be challenging, the real reward is advancing the story and enjoying the quirky animation. Puzzle Agent’s characters are all so kooky and memorable that we wouldn’t be surprised if they developed a fan following. The stylish illustrated artwork only helps that along, while the humorous voice acting, complete with Minnesota accents, also contributes to the story’s quirkiness.
If you’re not a fan of brainteasers, Puzzle Agent won’t be your thing. However, the game is enjoyable in a typical Telltale Games way, though there isn’t much replay value.
COMPANY: Telltale Games
REQUIREMENTS: Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Mac OS 10.5 or later
Easy to play. Engaging storyline. Memorable characters.
Puzzles can be really challenging. No way to skip through cut-scenes.