Puzzle Agent 2: Return to Scoggins

The first Puzzle Agent game was one of my favourite point and click adventure games of last year. I was really looking forward to this, as the first one had a lot of unresolved plot points. The game takes place shortly after the events of the last game. With the Scoggins eraser factory reopened, Tethers' boss decided to close the case in spite of there still being some missing persons. This bothers him, as the Hidden People were still at large. Tethers can't get authorisation to reopen the case so he does the only thing he can do- take a holiday and investigate without backup. For newcomers (or those just wanting a refresher course) there's a case file in the in game menu that details the main points of the first game's story. However, I would still recommend playing the first game before starting this one- there's huge spoilers on the game's plot.

Telltale Games must have heard my complaints about the Back to the Future series being too easy. Well, Puzzle Agent 2 more than makes up for this. There's a lot more variety this time around, and the difficulty has definitely been ramped up. I did have to consult a walkthrough for a couple of the puzzles. The hint system this time around is more vague, but not to the point of being annoying. Once again, gum is used as currency for buying hints- clicking around an area will usually reveal a piece or two. You won't be in any danger of running out though. Unlike the first game, most of the puzzles can be bypassed entirely. Very few are actually required to finish the game. Some of the puzzle types are copied over here from the first game, with a few changes to make the solutions different. Thankfully there is more new than old on offer here, and they are all challenging.

The story is a lot stronger this time around. The game still manages to keep most of its "Twin Peaks" style vibe, and answers all the questions from the first game. However, it feels a lot shorter this time around and not quite as creepy. There are only a handful of new characters introduced, and the old ones don't have as much dialogue as before. I would have preferred a lot more of the conversations that were so fun in the first one. The extra depth of the game world is lost somewhat because of this. There's also no real need this time for solving the sub-puzzles- usually you got some extra lines from the townspeople or a joke as a reward. This time it's just solved and that's it.

The voice acting is once again top notch. My favourite is still the waitress- for some reason, I love the soft delivery of her lines and the emotion she's able to get across. She did have some tough competition this time around- a femme fatale named Korka who seems to know more then she's letting on has some great lines. There's more cutscenes this time around, which does help the story. However, there doesn't seem to be much (if any) new music this time around. While I love the original's soundtrack, I would have liked to have heard more from the same composer.

Graphically, the game is the same as the first one. The unique art style and animation return with great effect. I did run into some glitches while playing (such as parts of a puzzle not rendering properly), but reloading the great autosave fixed them. It was annoying, but not as bad as the bugs that plagued the last episode of the Back to the Future game series. One thing that definitely bugged me was a couple of story puzzles that are actually unsolvable when you first get them. This isn't revealed to you until you start actually playing around with the puzzle for a few minutes. If you spend time reading through it and try to find out the logical solution before clicking on anything, you'll be stumped. This could easily be fixed with a few lines of dialogue when starting the puzzle.

My review of the first Puzzle Agent really covers this game too. It has its flaws, but there's still enough good here to outweigh the bad. Finishing the game does unlock all the side puzzles in case you missed any, plus some new ones as a reward for beating it. It does set itself up for a sequel with new surroundings and characters, and here's hoping we'll see more Puzzle Agent adventures soon. Not a lot has been done here at first glance, but it's a strong continuation of a good game. I think it would have been stronger as two act single adventure rather than being split over two different games. With some minor rewrites of the first game's ending and the opening of this one, they would have fit seamlessly together. Regardless, if you liked the first one or Professor Layton style games you should check this out.

V. Smyth

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