Puzzle Agent 2

Some mysteries are better left unsolved. Twin Peaks was far more enjoyable before ABC forced David Lynch’s hand and made him provide answers about his troubled mountain town. The same is true of the Puzzle Agent series before Puzzle Agent 2 attempts to neatly tie up all the loose ends of another mountain town: Scoggins, Minnesota. Taking place the week after 2010’s Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent, PA2 opens with Tethers deciding to take some personal days from the FBI to further investigate the disappearance of factory foreman Isaac Davner.

This means two things: Revisiting old friends and locations from the original game (recycling assets galore in the process), and therefore creating the expectation for more rewarding puzzles. Unfortunately, PA2’s 30-odd puzzles largely disappoint or come across as limp. Some types repeat, while others are just uninspired. For example, Tethers must cut through all the locks on a door with a single swipe at several different junctures—which developer Telltale thinks is forgivable if Tethers sighs angrily before taking on the problem. There are also puzzles that make no sense, like one where you’re expected to rattle off digits from pi. Wait, what? Not everybody has that unending number completely memorized?

Puzzle Agent 2 isn’t all bad, it just could be much better. Many of the new characters are genuinely entertaining and interesting, but they also wind up raising more questions than answering them. Tethers gets a love interest in the form of a brainy femme fatale (“Can I get you a drink? Or a crossword puzzle?”), but she’s noticeably absent in the game’s second two hours. At least the writing is still whip-smart and funny, most evidently with Tether’s sycophantic colleague Jim Ingraham from the vegetable-crimes unit falling over himself to impress Tethers with his unimposing intellect.

The interface in general has been improved upon in this outing: The pixel-hunting for gum (which can provide clues in puzzles) is gone, thanks to the cursor’s ability to radiate out and show you what’s clickable whenever you tap the mouse button. Still, that’s peanuts compared to how much more exciting this outing could have been. Puzzle Agent 2 wasn’t exactly necessary—the answers at the end are more “wha?”-inducing than anything—but it’s at least a way to extend this world’s life for a scant few more hours.

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