A few weeks ago I had a look at Puzzle Agent, a game quite similar to Professor Layton series on the DS in construction – a point and click adventure game with brain-teaser puzzles. The original was very short and had some implementation issues that tarnished the experience a little bit, but the narrative was well delivered and overall I really enjoyed playing the game.
The sequel landed on the 30th June, and I’ve now played it through. Unfortunately, Puzzle Agent 2 is a disappointing sequel, let me tell you why…
First, a warning, if you’ve not played the original, there’s possibly a few spoilers for the first game here.
In case you’ve not read my review of, or played, the original Puzzle Agent, let me again first address the type of game Puzzle Agent is. If you’ve ever played any of the Professor Layton series (Nintendo DS) then it’s that. If you haven’t played Layton: the core point-and-click adventure game, but with brain teaser puzzles instead of inventory or exploration puzzles. Layton’s already proved that it works when done well.
Nelson Tethers – of the FBI’s Department of Puzzle Research – is back, and while the Bureau has closed the case from the first game and considers it done, Tethers isn’t satisfied. He wants to find the missing Isaac Davner and to get to the bottom of mystery of Scoggins. He uses his off-duty time to pay another visit to Scoggins, and the town is still remote and the residents mostly unwelcoming, but there’s less dark secrets and more bizarre in this second visit to the town.
The game’s basic implementation is pretty much the same as the original; effectively a traditional point-and-click adventure game, with most of the usual elements you’d expect. The interface has barely changed, and the same hint system is in place, again with large amounts of gum available to be able to take advantage of lots of hints, if you need them. It has a solid foundation, which doesn’t impede the game, not much else I can say about it.
The most severe problem from the original game hasn’t been fixed; the puzzles. They’re the fundamental gameplay element here and, again, they’re a weak spot. Some of the puzzle types are repeated for multiple instances – some from the original return as well – which means the 35 puzzles is realistically a smaller fraction when you consider originality. Like the original, some puzzles suffer from difficult to comprehend instructions, which is compounded by the fact that the instructions and puzzle are on different pages – you can’t view them at the same time (something which if you’ve ever played a Professor Layton game gets irritating quickly) and flicking between the rules and solution is tedious.
Given the weak puzzles, the original game lived on its narrative and atmosphere, which were interesting and eerie, respectively. In the original, you were exploring the town while apparently being stalked by a (mostly) hidden and mysterious force, while working against obstructive and sometimes malicious local residents. This provides an eerie and quite suppressive atmosphere through-out the game that really draws you in.
Unfortunately, this is where Puzzle Agent 2 disappoints the most. Nelson isn’t being stalked, but is instead actively looking for the hidden force, are there just isn’t that much to struggle against – the local residents are quite placid, and when you are actively opposed its in a fairly bland manner. Add on to this some of the rather obscure plot elements, many of which don’t feel to have been sufficiently explained, and the game just feels a little bit… flat. It’s not that the narrative is bad, but it certainly fails to recreate the experience of the original.
Puzzle Agent 2 is short (a few hours); the plot is quite obscure in places and there are a few elements that don’t seem to have been explained; doesn’t quite manage to raise such as atmosphere as the original; the art style is back and still works brilliantly; and the core gameplay, the puzzles, are again weak. Overall I found Puzzle Agent 2 to be a disappointment, although it’s not bad, it’s just that after the original I was really hoping for more.
If you’ve played the original Puzzle Agent, and enjoying it a lot, then Puzzle Agent 2 might be worth a look just to find out where the story goes – but you might want to wait for a sale, else you risk being disappointed. If you’ve not played the original game then start with that, it’s definitely better than the sequel.