Puzzle games have been going through a bit of a renaissance recently. The incredible popularity of the Professor Layton games as well as the Phoenix Wright series and the general rise of the casual gaming market have made puzzle games a hot commodity. That doesn't mean more classic game makers like Telltale can't get their puzzle game on and do it right. They did it once with Puzzle Agent, now they're bringing it again with Puzzle Agent 2.
Puzzle Agent 2 begins right where the original Puzzle Agent left off. Agent Nelson Tethers doesn't feel too sure about his first investigation into the small town of Scoggins, so he takes some vacation time to settle accounts and look further into the mysteries of this puzzle-obsessed, snowy little town. This time more people have gone missing and most of Scoggins' residents seem more interested in solving puzzles than finding their missing citizens.
Gameplay in Puzzle Agent 2 is - unsurprisingly - mostly based on puzzles. Agent Tethers goes around to different areas in Scoggins as he tries to unravel its mysteries, this is all done via a simple point and click map. Once in an area, there are puzzles to click on and try to complete. Correctly solved puzzles will grant Agent Tethers new clues, advance the story, or grant access to new areas to investigate in Scoggins. The puzzles are fairly varied and, in terms of difficulty, gently move up the difficulty curve as you advance through the story. The only exceptions are the numbers-based puzzles, which proved excessively challenging. I'm no slouch with math, but I had to use several hints for each of these puzzles. Speaking of hints, Puzzle Agent 2 adds a hint system where none was present in the firstPuzzle Agent. Hints are acquired by gathering gum in the world, which is plentifully stuck to surfaces all throughout Scoggins. However, each puzzle is graded based on how many incorrect answers you submitted and how many hints you used, so the best scores only come from figuring puzzles out on your own.
The story is odd, to say the least. It's disjointed and quirky beyond measure, but all in a good, comedic way. Twin Peaks-inspired characters blended with solid comedic writing make for a fun, laugh-out-loud experience. The art is all done by Canadian cartoonist Graham Annable, giving the already quirky game a great, hand-drawn comic strip feel. The art adds further layers of funny to the game as well. The 2D art style does horrible things with nVidia 3D Vision, however, rendering more depth than there should be. The voice acting is fairly well done, though the music seemed so subtle and low-key that it stays too far in the background, particularly in moments of high-action or high-comedy.
Puzzle Agent 2 took me about three hours to complete, but I didn't spend too much time exploring for more puzzles and I tend to solve puzzles rather quickly, so it could feasibly run into the four hour range. Puzzles cannot be redone without starting a new game and completing the game only gives you a few new puzzles in the post-game. At $9.99 on PC (also available on iPhone for $4.99 and iPad for $6.99), the game is a bit short on the value side. While the puzzles are good and varied, there just wasn't enough incentive to make me want to go back through and do them all over again to get better scores.
Overall, Puzzle Agent 2 is a very entertaining, challenging little game. I had fun with it and genuinely laughed out loud several times over the course of Agent Tether's three hour journey through the muddled mysteries of Scoggins. Hilarious writing, great art style, and good puzzles make Puzzle Agent 2 a brilliant little game, if a bit too pricey.