Look, I think Telltale Games really messed up in how they presented Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent and Puzzle Agent 2 to adventure and puzzle fans worldwide. They are not two separate games, but rather one cohesive story broken right down the middle, with some faux resolution to make one feel like they finished something when in reality, all they did was open the floodgates for further answers. Answers that would have to wait for a second go-around. If we could travel back in time and I could get a job at Telltale and confidently speak up during one of those early brainstorming meetings, I’d rename them as so: Puzzle Agent, Act 1 “Acer Eraser Chaser” and Puzzle Agent, Act 2 “Gnome Man’s Land”. You’re welcome, everyone.
But really, that’s just me being picky over the fact that these are clearly meant to be played together. One, then the other. I mean, I have no idea how anyone could play Puzzle Agent 2 and not have experienced the story from the first game and still understand what is happening in this dark, disturbing tale of disillusionment and dementia. Everything is connected, and nothing is hamfistedly explained for the player a second time round. You either know who Isaac Davner is or you don’t. It’d be like if the first act of Broken Age had been released with the full implication that it was, for lack of a better way to put it, a complete and finished product. People would have gone bananas-infused crazy if that had been the case, but granted, from what I can tell, the two Puzzle Agent games are small fish in the big adventure games pond. And what a shame that is.
Puzzle Agent 2 is more or less the very same game as Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent, with one pretty key difference between the two: difficulty. In the original game, I found many of the logic puzzles to be absolutely mind-hurting and found myself looking up answers online even after I used all three possible pieces of hint gum. It’s no fun getting stuck on a puzzle in these kind of games because it basically means you can’t see any more, and I felt like the majority of the puzzles were just too obtuse or unfair, though maybe the later Professor Layton games really softened me up. That said, I looked up maybe two to three puzzle solutions at most in Puzzle Agent 2, finding many of them almost ridiculously easy and simple. Guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
The strange story of a shutdown erasers factory and the Hidden People whispering in the woods continues on and on in Puzzle Agent 2, with Nelson Tethers returning to Scoggins, Minnesota to finish what he started. Alas, he has to use up all his vacation days to do so as the FBI believes everything is cleared up. Immediately upon arriving, Nelson feels unwelcome and receives a mysterious note that highlights the fact that many others have gone missing, not just Davner. Your first step is figuring out who, in what order, and why. Naturally, you’ll do this by talking to locals, running down dialogue options, and solving puzzles. It’s quite perfunctory and by the numbers, but it’s also really great and entrancing thanks to the tone, delivery of the voice acting, and Graham Annable’s unsettling art style. Seriously, there’s some fantastic dialogue here, especially between Nelson and newcomer (and potential love interest) Korka, and even more fun-to-watch cutscenes thanks to a bump in the animation department.
However, there was one puzzle that really disappointed me. It’s one of the final puzzles in the game, where Nelson is running from some people and trying to find a thingy. I believe the instructions were telling me to draw lines from certain floating items in a specific order to help keep Nelson focused on the task, but I failed every time, and this is one of the rare puzzles where you are being timed and have to act fast. I felt very confused from the word go, and I blame the instructions, as they weren’t very clear. I had completed all the other puzzles up to that point, so it was frustrating to see one slip by, especially that close to the credits.
This time, thankfully, when Puzzle Agent 2 ends, it ends. Though there is a postcard-size hint that maybe a third adventure, one not set in Scoggins, could happen down the line, but given that Telltale Games is now working on four episodic adventure games series concurrently…I doubt anyone is really pushing for more Nelson Tethers action. I mean besides me. Let me know if I’m not alone in this. Heck, if a potato salad can see rise to a great Kickstarter, why not Puzzle Agent 3: The Bermuda Bummers? Let’s do this.