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Puzzle Agent 2 (PC) artwork

Puzzle Agent 2 (PC) review

"Following the closure of his last case, Nelson Tethers is racked with guilt over the string of unsolved disappearances in the eerie, insular community of Scoggins, Minnesota. And so, after taking vacation from his job as an FBI Puzzle Detective, our protagonist fires up his snowmobile and treks back to tie up any loose ends."

Following the closure of his last case, Nelson Tethers is racked with guilt over the string of unsolved disappearances in the eerie, insular community of Scoggins, Minnesota. And so, after taking vacation from his job as an FBI Puzzle Detective, our protagonist fires up his snowmobile and treks back to tie up any loose ends. This time around the townsfolk are slightly less accommodating, as Nelson had agitated the Brotherhood of Scoggins during his last visit and is returning on his own accord, without the authority of the FBI to back him up. This time around, things delve further into the surreal as Tethers begins to question his own sanity while searching for the missing people and while investigating a suspicious race of gnomes known as the hidden people.

Based on Graham Annabelís Grickle book series, Puzzle Agent 2 follows in the distinctively minimalistic style of its predecessor while further evoking the feeling of the artistís work. The atmosphereís all there during the cutscenes and adventure segments, and the quaint, lifeless town of Scoggins feels downright unnerving at times. This quality is followed through in the voiceovers. The result is a game that evokes the sounds and look of the snow-covered American Midwest in a unique way. While both of these aspects hold up to the quality evident in the first Puzzle Agent 2, however, many of the art assets have sadly been recycled.

Puzzle Agent 2 suffers in other areas, as well. The puzzle-based mechanics once again serve as the meat of the experience, though this time around they place a slightly heavier emphasis on math. There are around 30 puzzles in all and they span all varieties of puzzle; some are logic-based, some require careful block positioning or arrangement of photographs in the correct sequence and so forth. While the range on offer feels slightly less limited than it did in the first game, the lack of consistency or direction in the puzzles sometimes feels at odds with the evocative art style during cutscenes. Puzzles often feel like short exercises in frustration that youíre completing only to get the storyline moving again. And while the explanations are clearer this time around, the puzzle designs seem to lack inspiration. There still are a few of them that feature frustratingly vague descriptions, so that problem isn't entirely removed.

The storylineís return to Scoggins comes across as an admission that there may have been too many loose-ends in the prior game. You'll sometimes feel like it's picking up the first game's slack with sligthly better pacing for most of the adventure. Then, as the end approaches, things go off the rails. Either all focus was lost or perhaps even a whole portion was cut from the game to facilitate another eventual sequel. The end result means that while Puzzle Agent 2 brings closure to many of the original gameís unsolved mysteries, it also delves deeper into absurdist territory--events that can no longer be given a neat, concise explanation--and will likely be expanded at least a few more times before gamers see a proper conclusion. Thatís a shame, as things were going along just fine before those final segments. Given that the game is relatively short and clocks in at around 4 hours, those unfocused final moments are especially disappointing.

Puzzle Agent 2 often feels at odds with itself in ways the original didnít. Perhaps that's just a result of the novelty slowly wearing off. What's offered here is more of the same, which means that the game also represents a missed opportunity for a sequel that could have expanded on the puzzle elements in a more meaningful way. While thereís still plenty of incentive for fans of the original to pick this one up, the two games almost beg to be played in sequence. Newcomers should be warned that little or no attempt is made to catch them up on what the series is doing.

Ultimately, Puzzle Agent 2ís saving grace is in the Grickle-inspired art style, which is as aesthetically interesting as ever. However, cutscenes arenít enough to make up for inconsistency that lies at a gameís core. Itís here that Puzzle Agent 2 suffers most.

Calvin's avatar
Freelance review by Calvin Kemph (July 09, 2011)

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