Review: Puzzle Agent 2

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I went into this one assuming TellTale had learned from their missteps on the first Puzzle Agent, namely its lack of puzzle variety or challenge. I even hoped there would be a little more to do, maybe some side paths or dialogues to explore. I don’t know why I thought this, other than my brain is chemically imbalanced towards unwarranted optimism. Instead of improving on these points, Puzzle Agent 2 looks to the elements that worked so well in the first and throws them clean out the window, opting for a game that is less challenging, more confusing, and all-around dumber than what came before.

The case at the eraser factory is closed, but with too many lingering questions for Agent Tethers’ liking. He returns to Scoggins, MN on his own to delve into the mystery of what REALLY happened there, and soon finds matters reaching far further than he ever dreamed. There are some kooky new characters to help him on his way, as well as plenty of familiar faces who generally aren’t that happy to see him. And there are puzzles, of course.

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The story is important here, but not as important as the puzzles. My big problem with the first Puzzle Agent was the lack of variety and challenge to the puzzles, almost to the point of dragging down the entire game. Inexplicably, Puzzle Agent 2 scores worse in every way with its puzzles. There are even FEWER kinds of brain-teasers this time, with the vast majority of them just retooled versions of puzzles from the first. I guarantee you’re going to be sick to death of making paths and adding numbers by the end of this one, and the only new kind I can recall were reprehensible sliding block affairs.

And they’re not even harder! There were a few puzzles in the first game that gave me pause or required a few attempts, but I solved every single one of Puzzle Agent 2’s puzzles on the first try! Including the three “secret” puzzles at the end! They may mostly be copies of previous puzzles but they’re even easier than before, with many being obvious the moment you lay eyes on them. Instead of taxing your brain they beg for loose brain change and then scurry off into the shadows no matter what you toss them.

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Building on the bizarre and creepy story of PA1 could maybe be enough to save PA2, but it faceplants on this hurdle as well. The highlights of the first game were the unexpected moments of terror and the sinister mystery hiding in the corners of sleepy Scoggins. PA2 drags all that out into the light, dissolving the horror with ridiculous explanations and over-complications. The story pulls in all different directions with new characters that end up being irrelevant and revelations in entirely new genres. I don’t know what you’re imagining the ultimate secret of the Puzzle Agent saga is, but I guarantee that (a) you’re wrong and (b) the truth is way dumber than what you came up with.

The only way I can imagine Puzzle Agent 2 coming into existence is that TellTale diligently compiled a list of all well-reasoned criticisms of PA1, and then did the exact opposite of what they indicated. Everything that was bad in the first is worse in the second, and everything that was good is somehow twisted around to be bad. I implore you, if you took a chance on Puzzle Agent 1 and enjoyed what you experienced, stop there. Proceed no further, for this is easily the worst thing that could have happened to this series.

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