There are many ways games series can approach a new game. Some sequels keep the same gameplay and just progress the story, others innovate with the gameplay and some overhaul both the gameplay and story. Puzzle Agent 2 sits firmly in the first of these categories and does little to differentiate itself from its predecessor in the gameplay department.
Instead Puzzle Agent 2 aims to answer all the questions posed by the story of the first game and to do that Nelson Tethers has to go back to the disconcerting town of Scoggins. Although the case was formally closed by the FBI there are too many loose ends for Tethers and he sets off back to Minnesota to find the real secrets behind the mysterious “hidden people.”
Anyone who played the first game will be greeted with a familiar feeling. The town of Scoggins is still populated by most of the same quirky characters and for the early parts of the game you’ll mostly be seeing the same places as before. If it wasn’t for conversations referencing Tethers’ previous adventure then you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were playing the first Puzzle Agent again.
This is reflected in the amount of reused assets. Many may not see this as a problem because apart from the jarring lack of animation, which you’ll have gotten used to if you are noticing reused assets, the visuals are of high quality. Graham Annable’s hand-drawn artwork complements the story and feel of the game which is even darker than the first.
The narrative bounces around from being quirky, to humorously absurd and to downright bizarre with ease. With every scene there’s an expectancy of the unexpected and most of the time the game duly delivers. The story centres around delusions, lunacy and mythology. When this is combined with the more difficult puzzles it can feel like your mind is being warped as much as Tethers’ is.
Sadly the puzzles on show are less testing than those found in the first Puzzle Agent. This may be due to familiarity more than anything as a lot of the same puzzle designs are used. Sliding blocks, rotating pieces and chronicling photographs make up a large chunk of the tests facing Tethers. It feels at times that the first game was too efficient at training you and as a result many of the puzzles feel too easy and not rewarding enough.
The hardest puzzles in the game are those that don’t rely on pure logic but instead require you to have knowledge of other things, mathematics mostly. One notable example requires the knowledge of both binary code and American currency. Although they are few and far between these puzzles can be infuriating, even with a liberal use of hints.
The hints, unlockable via the chewing gum found on almost every wall, also come in handy for another minority of puzzles, the poorly worded. This was a problem in the first game and although it has been reduced there are still a couple of puzzles where working out what you have to do is the real test.
On the whole the puzzles are still pretty good though and there is a decent variety of them throughout the game. Veterans of the series may feel frustrated at the relative ease of them but this is compensated for by the continued narrative from the first game.
In this review the first Puzzle Agent has been mentioned a lot and for good reason. Puzzle Agent 2 has found itself in a strange position where it depends on its prequel but is also undermined by it. To understand and fully appreciate the story of Puzzle Agent 2 playing Puzzle Agent 1 is a necessity. However, in doing so the puzzles in the second game become less fulfilling.
There are few who I can definitively recommend Puzzle Agent 2 to. Puzzle fanatics and those who enjoyed the story of the first game and would like see it fleshed out should consider it a definite buy. For those new to the series then make sure to play the first game first, it has a stronger set of core puzzles and if the storyline grabs you then you’ll enjoy the sequel.
Verdict: Off Target
Platforms Available – PC, iOS, Mac
Platform Reviewed – PC