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JPublic Will Play It - March 2011 - Puzzle Agent

Posted 02-27-2011 at 08:18 PM by jpublic
Puzzle Agent
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platform: PC/Mac (Steam)
Price: $5

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Due to popular request, the game this month is Telltale Games' Puzzle Agent, based on Graham Annable's work in the Grickle series of books. It's a little bit adventure, and a lot of puzzling.

I should note, that because this is a game where riddles and puzzles are central, I'm not going to go into the puzzles too much, to avoid ruining it for new players. Well, that is unless I get really ticked off. Then I might rant a bit, and all bets are off.

However, since this is a log of my game play experience, MASSIVE STORY SPOILERS INSIDE so don't say I didn't warn you.

So, I load up the game, and is my custom with Telltale products, I immediately turn the graphics to a more comfortable windowed mode. Yes, I know I'm obsessed that, deal. With that done, I start things up.

Control/interface note: The game is a point-and-click adventure, outside of the puzzles. One of the more interesting design choices was a sonar-like option with the pointer. If you click on empty space, the pointer 'pings' and you can see all the objects you can interact with nearby.

The story starts in the J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington DC, at the Department of Puzzle Research, which would be awesome if it actually existed. We see a guy (whom I assume is the Nelson Tethers mentioned at the title screen) working on a crossword, getting bored, and having a nap. But what's this, an astronaut shows up, snatches his pencil, writes on the puzzle, and opens his visor! Nelson screams... and it was all a dream. Right.

But in his panic, Nelson destroyed his crossword! But something had been written on it... so it wasn't a dream! Quickly, we must put the pieces back together, to form the word Scoggins!

Puzzle Time: Less time than it took me to type this sentence.

I do like the bit at the end of the puzzle when you have to submit the puzzle (which gets added to a tally) and you're told how much taxpayer's money you've spent. Cute. We also get rated on how many hints we used and how many times we tried to submit a wrong answer.

Anyway, having solved the puzzle, Nelson gets a call from one of his superiors, telling him about an assignment to secure the White House's supply of erasers. Nelson has to go to... Scoggins!


Next, we get to town (on a snowmobile), and Nelson starts recording his progress on a tape recorder, making note of a creepy man watching him. Let's go talk to said creepy man, shall we? He's Bjorn and is not much of a talker. But, he gives us directions to the hotel, which happens to be a puzzle! In this one, we have to set things up so that Nelson's snowmobile ricochets from his starting point to the destination. To do this, we have to arrange some logs - at each one, Nelson will turn 90 degrees.

Puzzle Time: Maybe 30 seconds.

So Bjorn's a jerk, and led Nelson in a circle, as we were at the hotel in the first place. We go look at an oddly gnawed-on fence for some reason, and then enter the hotel, Valda's. Inside, we run into the cheery proprietor, Martha Garret, whom everyone calls Ma. And she talks like...

(rant redacted) Gah. Sorry about that, the mass-media presentation of the rural Minnesotan accent irritates me.

Our next puzzle is to figure out our room. Apparently the night clerk wrote our room in code, and Ma can't figure it out.

Puzzle Time: 2 seconds. Seriously? This is a puzzle?

Anyway, following the puzzle, we ask Ma about the town (get a map), about the incident that shut down the plant (Isaac Davner was killed by raccoons, talk to Sheriff Bahg), and the weird guy in the lobby (Bo Murphy, puzzle obsessed). Then we ask for gum... and the town is out. But Nelson needs gum to concentrate, what shall he do? Oh look, some used gum, that'll do.


So let's go talk to Bo, and help him with his puzzle. In this one, we have a picture segmented up into 16 pieces, and must rotate them to form a picture.

Puzzle Time: About 5 minutes, mostly because I couldn't accept the solution I came up with was correct.

Welcome to snowy Scoggins, MN. As Nelson said, not much to look at.

Off to the eraser factory to talk to the Sheriff... Wow, that is one locked up door. Sheriff Bahg seems pleasant enough, but not particularly impressed with Nelson. Question time - the accident was apparently an explosion, and the foreman disappeared. The sheriff can't investigate more, because he can't get in the factory - the 'lock' is missing a piece. Asking more about the explosion, leads to a puzzle to determine the time of it, this one a logic puzzle based on several statements.

Puzzle Time: About 5 minutes. I suck at these ones.

Nelson points out how odd that timeline is (something about icicles on the building), and then agrees to meet the Sheriff at the diner. Off we go. The dinner is in the middle of an empty field, and outside there's a guy hammering on the sign with a wrench. Let's talk to him, he probably has a puzzle.

Yup. His sign is broken, and he needs a fuse. We need to figure out which one completes the sequence.

Puzzle Time: 2 Minutes, and I felt like an idiot when I got it.

After that, the guy gives us a clue about Glori, Isaac's wife, who happens to be in the diner. Okay, let's go in... woah. Let's of stares at the FBI guy. Nelson talks to the sheriff, to discover he engages in evidence tampering for kicks. For this puzzle we have to put the security camera pictures in order.

Puzzle Time: 1 minute, maybe. Not very tricky.

So we need to talk to Mike "Lobster" Lobb, whom we can find at the lake. Nelson asks about Glori, but is told to leave her alone. With nothing else to do, Nelson decides to go to... wait, people to talk to, must get more puzzles!

In this puzzle, we must help Darrel (factory worker) get his bug collection back in order. He has his bug collection in a diner? Eww.

Puzzle Time: 5 minutes, because I was an idiot and forgot one of the rules.

Solving the puzzle, we can now interrogate Darrel. We found out that the new wing may be haunted with forest spirits, Mike Lobb and Isaac had a fight, Isaac isn't popular with some of the workers (college boy), and that the guy fixing the sign (Randal Scruffman) thinks trees talk to him, and is sweet on Glori.

The other guy in here, Steve, is not too cooperative. His puzzle involves his job airlifting wooden gnomes using birds out of the town, to sell to the black market. We need to help him figure out how many gnomes left town. This is a load-balancing puzzle.

Puzzle Time: 3 minutes. I was slowed by a mental visualization problem, but figured it out quickly with some scratch paper.

Finally, Nelson talks to Glori, who is distracted with a problem plating a meal. We have to help her fit the food on the plate.

Puzzle Time: 10 minutes. I hate these puzzles, I can't even pack a suitcase properly.

Nelson asks her for information, but aside for some suspicious evasions, nothing comes of it. Wait, puzzle! Nelson helps Glori figure out what each couple ordered.

Puzzle Time: 5 minutes. Gah, logic puzzles.

We leave the dinner and... AAAAAAAGH EVIL GNOME! EVIL GNOME! MAG'S EVIL COUSINS COME TO-wait, it ran off.

After Nelson's heart rate slows, he heads off to find Mike Lobb. He can only go part of the way by snowmobile, and must walk his way through Sasimy Woods. Upon arriving in the woods, he sees a man sitting on a stump, apparently frozen to death! Orange vest on, must be Mike Lobb! He froze trying to one on... you guessed it, a puzzle. Nelson takes the challenge.

Puzzle Time: 10 minutes. Also had one bad submission. Dang. I'll complain about this later.

The first puzzle in the game, unsolved so as to not ruin it for you.

Solving the puzzle, we discover that Mike Lobb is alive! He says some odd things about some mysterious 'they' chasing Isaac, and something that must not happen to the door. And then, before finally dying (permanently) he hands us a missing part to the factory lock. Nelson also finds Isaac's ID badge on the ground.

Nelson decides to continue on to the ice fishing huts. There, he finds Scruffman, working on one of the huts. He tells Nelson he was working at the hotel the night of the accident, and that he didn't help Mike because he didn't want to get involved. Nice guy, really. We also note some gnawed on fish - like the fence, earlier.

Back to the inn. I click around the area, and wait, there's a puzzle next door. The high school football team works there, but can't miss practice. We have to help them complete a pass without breaking any glass. This is a simple connect-the-points exercise, with the caveat we can't cross any of the glass panes on the page.

Puzzle Time: 1 minute. Easy.

Nelson asks Bjorn about Scruffman's alibi, and he says Scruffman's a stand up guy. Just then, there's a scream and a crash inside the inn! Nelson rushes inside, to find... a puzzle! The stovepipe on the wood stove has collapsed, and Nelson must reconnect it, by rotating pieces to make a path.

Puzzle Time: GNOME!

A gnome stole some of the pipe! Nelson chases it, and sees it handing the pipe to Bo Murphy.

So, Nelson decides he's going home. Puzzles, he's got handled. Creepy evil gnomes? Not so much. But as he's leaving Ma tells him the Sheriff expected him to leave. And the lock to the factory is on the outside... Something is going on here. Nelson decides he's staying, and heads out to see Bo Murphy about that pipe in the alley.

There, he finds Bo, a screwdriver (meaningless?), and a newspaper... puzzle! This one's another logic puzzle.

Puzzle Time: 5 minutes. I didn't get the base assumption at first, and couldn't figure it out. One I got that, easy.

Nelson tries to talk to Bo, but he's gone bye-bye, Egon, and we have to help him regain lucidity. Another pathing puzzle.

Puzzle Time: 5 minutes. This one was a bit tricky.

Bo says something about the whispers of the moon and clearing the path, and drops the pipe piece... and a gear for the lock at the factory! Back to the stovepipe puzzle.

Puzzle Time: 15 minutes. Wow, this one was actually quite tough.

We talk to Ma again, and confirm Scruffman's alibi. She also tells us about the local superstition about 'Hidden People', and also points us to Bjorn as a suspect - apparently Bjorn's crew takes the legend very seriously, and don't like the decorative gnomes she has. Hmm. Decorative gnomes, let's look at those, shall we... puzzle! In this one, we're trying to figure out which gnome is missing. We have a negative of a photo to look at, that might help.

Puzzle Time: 5 minutes. My mind doesn't work right for these, I had to draw it out.

There's a quick series of puzzles here, interspersed with some plot. I'm going to run it in list form for readability:

- Nelson plans to go to the diner to confront Sheriff Bahg, but first... puzzle next door! Another connect the dots.
- Back to the diner, and first off, let's hunt for puzzles. Oh, there's Steve, with another load balancing puzzle.
- Hey, what's with that pile of chairs in the back? Oh wait, it's a... puzzle! Arrange the chairs to find an image. Huh, Weird moon/tree image that's used by the loggers.
- The Darrels tell us Bjorn and the other loggers hang out at the Brothers of Scoggins lodge, and they buy into the Hidden People thing. Hmm. Oh, by the way, puzzle! Another bug-box puzzle.

Puzzle Time: About 5 minutes total for all of those, including the speaking bits in between.

A pretty simple series, but they threw them at us rather quickly.

Our evaluation page. Yes, I am that awesome.

Nelson talks to the sheriff, who dismisses the possibility of Bjorn being a suspect, and tells us the community embraces its Nordic heritage. And that we're done for the day.

Well, heck with that. Nelson heads to the lodge to see what's going on, and finds a scrap of orange cloth in a sign. The window is covered in chains and boards, which is in fact a... puzzle! Cut all the chains and boards with a single slice.

Puzzle Time: 5 minutes - I drew it out again to not make a mistake, and had to use a hint.

Nelson looks inside, and catches Bjorn, and Glori Davner, and a couple others chanting in a circle. Before he can go in to investigate, the sheriff shows up, tells him off, and escorts Nelson back to the hotel, telling him to turn in for the night... and to not go out.

Creepy. And wait, was that Glori Davner running off behind us?! Nelson tries to follow her, and... puzzle. Pathing again.

Puzzle Time: 2 minutes, but I messed up once.

We track her to the factory, and see her leaving food for someone. Hmm. Nelson catches a light going on, and then...

AAAGH! EVIL GNOMES! Evil gnomes poking at the food! And they notice Nelson! Nelson flees from the Gnomish menace...and gets knocked out by running into a tree.

Y'know, I think I'll stop there. I'm reaching my limit, and I don't want to ruin the whole game. I will point out I did go on to finish it, and it was awesome.
Total Comments 1


jpublic's Avatar

So, where do I stand on Puzzle Agent? It was pretty strongly recommended about the community, which made me very interested in doing it for this March installment. I'd have to concur with the recommendations - if you like mystery/puzzle games, especially with a hefty dose of humor and the absurd, this game is for you. It's engaging, funny, and a remarkably well done story with a lot of charm.

However, I do have a couple complaints. Primarily, I don't like Annable's art. It's not a style I'm fond of, and Telltale taking it further into the animations style they used didn't do wonders for it. Also, the Telltale engine is clearly 3D biased, and often times this would cause odd seams to appear in different places.

Second, it drives me nuts that the only way to improve your score if you don't get perfect is to replay the game. I don't know if there's a reward for a perfect run through, but I'm not inclined to play the game again to see.

Puzzle Agent is sold at a pretty low price, and I'm going to say it's worth more than that. The high irritation rating is because it's a puzzler, and those tend to frustrate me, even if I am good at them.

1) The JPublic Fun Rating: 4 out of 5

2) The JPublic Irritation Rating: 4 out of 5

3) The JPublic Value Point: $7.50, even if the game is only $5.00

Comment in the thread, here.
Posted 02-27-2011 at 08:19 PM by jpublic jpublic is offline

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