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iPad Game Review: Puzzle Agent 2 HD
      07/09/11 04:03 PM

iPad Game Review: Puzzle Agent 2 HD
Reviewed by Guy Dayen

Nelson Tethers is back, and he knows the truth is out there, WAY out there, in Scoggins, Minnesota. Special Agent for the FBI's Puzzle Research Division, Nelson isn't satisfied with the Bureau's declaration that a case he was working on, that of a missing eraser factory foreman, has been solved and is now closed. In addition, Tethers wants to find out what the cryptic Brotherhood is up to, and he wants to elucidate the mystery of the "Hidden People". Oh, and he also wants gum...

Telltale Games comes back to the iPad with Puzzle Agent 2, the continuing saga of Nelson Tethers and the mysterious goings-on in the icy darkness of Minnesota. The same cast of off-beat characters is back, and it?s a pleasure for me to visit Scoggins once more. It is a strange and somewhat forbidding place, full of secrets and intrigue. This time, Tethers discovers that there has been a rash of disappearances in and around Scoggins, stretching back for years. There is much more to this mystery than Nelson ever knew. This time, he?s determined to find out the truth, no matter how many obstacles get in his way.



While it is possible to play Puzzle Agent 2 without having gone through Puzzle Agent 1, I?d recommend playing both games. You?ll enjoy the second episode a lot more if you?ve gone through the first part. Both of them are great games, so go for the full Nelson Tethers experience. You won?t be disappointed.

Gameplay

In Puzzle Agent 2, you solve puzzles as you progress through Nelson?s second trip to Scoggins, Minnesota. Not satisfied with the outcome of his investigation of the disappearance of a foreman at the eraser factory supplying the White House with its erasers (An enormous source of pride for the locals...), Nelson returns to the scene. From the start, he feels he isn?t welcome in this weird little town, and he?s sure someone, or something... is trying to prevent him from uncovering the truth.

Players follow Tethers as he interviews the residents of Scoggins, and bit by bit, try to piece together the facts and clues that are revealed. Along the way, various puzzles will be presented, and solving them will help players move through the storyline. There are many different kinds of puzzles, and the level of difficulty varies as well. Some of the puzzles seem pretty easy, while others really demand some thought before the solution presents itself. In case you get stuck, there are hints available to help you. Look for the wads of gum strewn about Scoggins; each one affords a puzzle hint. The story unfolds very clearly, and the game gives subtle hints if players seem unsure of what to do, such as when they click too often, or in the wrong places. Look for discrete arrows that point the way to the next thing to do or the next place to go.



I won?t go into too much detail about the story to spoil it for those who still haven?t played it. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the game is to explore and find out about the people of Scoggins and about what lies behind the legend of the ?Hidden People?. The time and care spent on the storyline are obvious.

There is a great deal of humor to the Puzzle Agent series, and there are some very funny moments. People with a quirky sense of fun will enjoy the games very much. If you liked Northern Exposure, Picket Fences, Twin Peaks or Fargo, this game will be right up your alley. My only complaint is that this game is shorter than Puzzle Agent 1; I liked it very much, and I wanted more playing time. I hope Nelson will return for Puzzle Agent 3. After all, who knows what else lurks in the deep, dark woods of Minnesota ?

Graphics

Anyone familiar with the work of Graham Annable, the Canadian-born creator of the Grickle comics, will instantly recognize the graphic design in Puzzle Agent 1 and 2. If you don?t know him, Google him. You?ll be amazed to see how many things he?s been involved in, and who he?s been working with!

The art is deliberately flat and angular, with clear bold lines and muted colors. I think it looks great, and it is ideally suited for the storyline of the game. It has a very distinctive look; one which is refreshingly different from all the anime inspired games on the iTunes store. It brings to mind the style of the comic panels that were so prevalent in the magazines of the 50?s and 60?s.



There have been complaints that Puzzle Agent 2 stutters on the iPad. I noticed the same thing, brief little hiccups two or three times at the beginning of the game. Closing down applications that might be running in the background and making sure that the iPad is not chock-full of apps really seemed to alleviate the problem. Once I did that, I only noticed a hesitation once for a second or two. Otherwise, it plays wonderfully on my 1st generation iPad.

Sound

There?s nothing worse than bad acting; it can destroy an otherwise worthwhile movie, audiobook or game. However, the voice acting in Puzzle Agent 2 is nothing short of terrific. This is a very good thing, since most of the game is spent in conversation with the denizens of Scoggins. If this aspect of the game had not been spot-on, it would have been a disaster, but it?s clear that talent was a priority here.

The sound effects and music are minimal and appropriately eerie, and perfectly match the mood of the game. There is a certain stillness to small towns, especially in the winter (and it always seems to be winter in Scoggins); too much music or noise would work against the sense of atmosphere that?s created throughout the story.

Again, I found that there were a few stutters at the beginning of the game, but once I closed most of the many apps in the background, performance improved significantly.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed Puzzle Agent 1, and I was glad to see Nelson Tethers back for Puzzle Agent 2. I had a lot of fun playing the second game; I thought it was on par with the first episode. I enjoyed the expanded storyline and the new puzzles. I was a bit apprehensive that, like many sequels, I would be disappointed, but that wasn?t the case. Aside from a few minor performance issue, I was very happy with the second installment of the Nelson Tethers saga.

My only real issue is that the second game seems shorter than the first. I wish there had been more playing time. This is more of a concern when you have a game like this, where there is less replay value; after all, you?ve solved the puzzles and you know the story. Still, for seven dollars, you?ll have a great time; it?s definitely worth the asking price. Perhaps we will be graced with Puzzle Agent 3. If we are, I?ll be among the first to play it.



Ratings (scale of 1 to 5): 4.5

Graphics: 4.5 Graham Annable?s art work is a pleasure to behold, and gives Puzzle Agent 2 a very unique and distinctive look. You don?t feel like you?re playing yet another clone of an anime clone,
Sound: 4.5 The excellent voice acting in the Puzzle Agent series makes great games even better. The music and sound effects are eerie and quite atmospheric. A couple of little hiccups keep this from being a perfect score.
Controls: 5 The touch controls are very responsive, and there is a well-done visual system to guide players if they get confused.
Gameplay: 4 Good puzzles and an interesting storyline make this a really fun game to play alone or with a friend, but there is little replay value once you?ve solved the puzzles and gone through the story.

Playing Hints and Tips:

- Be sure to hold complete conversations with the people you meet as Nelson investigates. You can click the same prompt more than once, and receive more information. Keep clicking until the prompt is crossed out.
- Be aware that using hints will diminish the score players get for solving the puzzles.


App Facts:

Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: Jun 30, 2011
Price: $6.99
Buy App: Puzzle Agent 2 HD


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