The first Puzzle Agent was a surprising change of pace when considering the flock of iOS games streaming like an unrepentant hurricane into the App Store. It was charming and fun, with true story and entertainment besides fun puzzle solving. Great puzzles and a flummoxing cast of colorful characters made it a rich, albeit short adventure.
So what the hell happened here?
Puzzle Agent 2 takes place barely after the first, once again following Agent Tethers on a not-so-new adventure. Tethers of the FBI’s Department of Puzzle Research returns to Scoggins, Minnesota, to solve the mystery of disappearing residents. Residents which the small-town folk couldn’t care less about. Residents the FBI find only a nuisance, even though they clearly matter for the “bigger picture”. How’s that for a strong, enthusiastic plot, especially when compared to a presidential eraser factory mysteriously closing down?
Gameplay is identical to Puzzle Agent, requiring players to click on objects or persons to interact with, which in turn activates plot queues for cinematics or puzzles to solve. Little has changed between the first and second Puzzle Agent titles, from the characters (identical plus a few additions) to the setting (same places, same art, same everything) to the way the game is played. Puzzle Agent 2 isn’t a sequel…it’s an expansion pack sold for a ridiculous price as a standalone.
That’s not to say Puzzle Agent 2 isn’t a good…but it certainly isn’t the same fun, entertaining game. Puzzles are simpler and often not really puzzles, just solve-it yourself activities. The few actual puzzles require prior knowledge of some sort (one such puzzle required giving the next number of a sequence, but it made no sense…unless you knew the 6th decimal digit of pi). Most of the puzzles just aren’t fun or thought provoking. They are tedious
The same applies to the plot. Agent Tethers isn’t on some new adventure, he’s back in snow-filled Scoggins. There are no standout characters…the one possible love interest turns into a psychotic conspiracy theorist, only to disappear from the story entirely. There are very few actual lines of dialog to follow. The mystery practically solves itself. In the end Tethers finds the answers he’s looking for and solves the mystery of Scoggins’ disappearing residents, but there is no reward, no climactic moment that makes it all worthwhile. All players get is a final non-sensical puzzle to solve, and plenty of left over chewing-gun (hints) to squander.
Can I fault developer and publisher Telltale Games for this? Absofragginlutely. Puzzle Agent 2 is a trainwreck as a standalone title. I almost expect that Telltale decided to release it full-priced just to see how much they could make with minimal effort. And I emphasize minimal effort, because that’s how much work I put into finishing this game…and how much effort I’ll put into deleting it.