Astronauts, Cults, and Gnomes, OH MY! It’s a Puzzle Agent 2 Review

‘The one that got away’. A phrase many of us are familiar with, usually relating to a lost love. To Agent Nelson Tethers of the FBI Puzzle Research Division, that love is traded for mystery. You see, before a field assignment to Scoggins, Minnesota,  Nelson’s life was fairly normal. He would sit at his desk, completing crosswords and sudoku puzzles. But right at the conclusion of his recent assignment, he witnessed something he couldn’t quite get out of his head.
Whispering red forest gnomes.
Puzzle Agent 2 tells a tale of intrigue, mystery, and conspiracy. Following up the story of his assignment to Scoggins to reopen the Eraser Factory, Tethers is back on his own time to try and locate factory’s foreman Isaac Davner, who was taken away by The Hidden People (the aforementioned ‘whispering red forest gnomes’) at the conclusion of the first game. Upon returning, it’s clear that something is not right (even more so than usual).

Tethers explores more of the city this time around, meeting new residents who share his interest in puzzles. Fan favorite characters like Sheriff Bahg, and Bjorn are back, but the new characters help to flesh out the expanded city. Some of the conversations occur at a relaxed pace not unlike a casual chat you would have with your neighbor, which really added to the tone Scoggins emits. It’s a town of intense mystery and mythology, but the citizens aren’t really phased by any of it.

The game is also weirder in the best ways. The original game was definitely full of oddity, but Puzzle Agent 2 adds even more layers of it. It’s almost like show Twin Peaks, which initially sets you up with seemingly random bouts of nonsense, but by the end of the series it all begins makes sense. Tethers begins this game having already encountered the Hidden People, and been plagued with dreams of astronauts, but there still manages to be more. The whole game feels  larger in scope, despite lasting about the same length as the original. Nelson’s on the edge of discovering something far bigger than he even knows.

The original Puzzle Agent is often compared to the Professor Layton series, blending exploration with conversations and puzzles. The comparison is apt, however the difference is in the execution of the puzzles. Puzzle Agent 2 manages to incorporate just about all of it’s puzzles into the storyline, whereas Professor Layton’s are more random (ex. The train conductor won’t leave until you’ve rearranged his matchsticks into the shape of an owl!). There are still unrelated puzzles, but they’re not usually the ones you’ll receive from important people. They’re the perfect difficulty, balancing ones that can be solved without much thought, with ones that had me breaking out pencil and paper to draw complicated diagrams trying to identify a pattern. It’s very satisfying to spend time thinking something through, then seeing your work pay off with a correct answer.

My main criticism seems like a strange thing to be disappointed in, and I realize how backwards it sounds, but I feel that the game almost answers too many questions. Of course with any mystery, you’re looking forward to getting answers. Just by the end of Puzzle Agent 2, many of the mysterious players are explained in more detail than I expected them to be. They aren’t calling it Puzzle Agent – Episode 2, and it definitely feels like a standalone game. I suppose I just love the series enough that I desperately want it to continue, and by receiving so many answers at this point it kind of diminishes just how mysterious the whole thing is, going forward. There are still unexplained aspects, and story threads to pull upon for a hypothetical Puzzle Agent 3 (which could go some very interesting places based on the ending), but I guess I’m just curious where they would go considering just how much is explained here.

Puzzle Agent 2 is a glorious adventure. From the look and feel of the hand-drawn art, to the way Sheriff Bahg says “Agent Tethers” (I laugh every time that guy speaks), the world is just a fun place to be immersed into. The mysteries, and conspiracies will fuel your curiosity to keep digging deeper. The story has become even more complex than you could imagine, and has me eagerly anticipating reuniting with Agent Tethers in the future. Please Telltale, just one more puzzle?

10/10

Puzzle Agent 2 is now available on PC, Mac, iPhone, and iPad, with a PSN version arriving in the future. Return to Scoggins today at the Telltale Store.

Also check out our review of the original Puzzle Agent by clicking here!

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