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Old 07-09-2010, 10:32 PM   #1
Samuel Dravis
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Puzzle Agent


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I am a huge fan of Telltale and, after reading Graham Annable's "Book of Grickle" and watching his channel on YouTube, of the Grickle universe. I also happen to love adventure games as well. So it was pretty much certain that I would get their new game, Puzzle Agent, which mashes all those things together into one lump of (horrifying) joy. It was released a few days ago so I figured I'd write up my thoughts on the game.

The atmosphere of the game retains much of the atmosphere of the motion-comics. It's really impressive, honestly; it's practically an interactive Grickle short which isn't really that short (the game's runtime is probably 4-6 hours, depending on whether you do many of the optional, harder puzzles). The art direction is spot on too. While the game's engine does use 3D scenes to pin the art to, characters are 2D. You'll only notice this when the camera pans smoothly across a scene (for example, trees exhibit a parallax effect). This is a notable difference from their other titles like Tales of Monkey Island or Sam and Max (and frankly, I like the 2/3D better than the relatively cumbersome controls of the ToMI and S&M Season 3). To give you a general feel for the atmosphere, watch this video:

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Yes, crazed monkey screams do make it into the game itself as well. I'm not going to say where, though. You've been warned. Like the motion comics, Puzzle Agent relies on the uncomfortable juxtaposition of normal, small-town elements with just plain creepy huge-eyed staring and unnatural behavior to create an interesting draw to finishing the game. You want to know what happens, but at the same time you know it's going to be horrible. And yes, the ending is inexplicable and horrible. This is not the game you want to give to children, because it will give them nightmares. I'll say one thing: I'm not going to Minnesota any time soon, and not just because I have no reason to go to Minnesota.

The game's music is ok, although nothing exceptional in itself. Some games make me want to go out and find the soundtrack for them-- this is not one of those games. However, it does sound good and is more than adequate to do the job. If more Puzzle Agent games are released, I hope they'll add a few more tracks to the playlist, but I am not too concerned about it. The voice acting is also reasonably good, although there are a few parts where it seems the emphasis was lost. Nothing too JC Denton, though.

You play Nelson Tethers, an FBI agent who is also the only one employed by the Puzzles division. Apparently, you mostly sit in your office, being bored, solving Soduku and...being bored. One day you your boss sends you to the lovely town of Scoggins, Minnesota, to find out what has happened to the production of erasers in the local eraser factory (it would be terrible if the President ran out of erasers). As soon as you arrive, you meet the innkeeper and set out to solve her problems puzzles.

Basically, there are several puzzles in the game for every character in it, and some puzzles that are not attached to any character. The puzzles come mostly in just a few different varieties: creating boxes with certain space requirements, tile-tube matching (a la Bioshock hacking), a few where you needed to do some simple math, gear-putting-togethering, and some variations on mirror puzzles. Honestly-- most of the puzzles are easy. One is even just "follow the squiggly line in the middle of lots of other squiggly lines." I'm not even sure if that actually qualifies as a puzzle.

The ones I had trouble with were also not exceptionally hard, but the stated rules for playing them displayed in the game were insufficient for winning them on the first try - sometimes I had to purposefully get one wrong just to see how it worked.

The hint system is pretty useful. You are allowed 3 hints per puzzle, and to get hints you have to pick up gum from random places in the game. Like the side of a building. The game is pretty generous with the used gum, so you shouldn't run into many problems with that.

I noticed several hints which were basically the the same thing said in different words. As the game awards score based on how many hints you used and times you've tried to solve the puzzle, this probably wouldn't make too many people happy. Then again, with the ease of the puzzles involved, I'm not sure how they could offer meaningful hints without just telling you the answer. Occasionally I noticed the hints were actually incorrect-- for example, there is a puzzle where you have to connect some points in a certain order without overlapping. The hint showed you a section of it completed, but the section it showed would make it impossible to complete the puzzle. It's pretty clear that more effort needs to be put into the puzzle aspect of the game.

Really, the issues I have pointed out are pretty minor and could be fixed easily in Puzzle Agent 2, assuming it gets made-- which I am relying on you for, Dear Reader. So if you happen to like what you've seen, buy it! At $10, it's the same price as a paperback book. I have definitely enjoyed playing it the past couple of days and I'm sure anyone with a somewhat odd sense of humor will also.

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Last edited by Samuel Dravis; 07-09-2010 at 10:41 PM.
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