Game Info:

Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent
Developed By: Graham Annable
Published By: Telltale Games
Released: June 30, 2010
Available On: Mac OS X, Windows
Genre: Adventure / Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number of Players: 1 offline
Price: $4.99 

An important problem has occurred that the government needs to address. The factory where the White House gets its erasers from has shut down. Any attempt to get an answer is met with an enigmatic puzzle. The FBI has decided to send its entire Puzzle Division to Scoggins, Minnesota, to get to the bottom of the situation. Of course, the entire Puzzle Division consists of one agent named Nelson Tethers, but don't let those details get in the way....

The title of the game is practically self-explanatory. You play Nelson Tethers, an FBI agent who specializes in solving puzzles. You are assigned to go through the small town of Scoggins in order to find out why the factory has closed, and to get it to open again before the White House runs out of erasers. Along the way, Tethers will run into numerous puzzles and challenges which need to be solved before he can proceed any further. 

The game, for the most part, plays out a lot like other Telltale adventure games. Click on the screen to direct Tethers to look at objects, talk to people, or pick up wads of used chewing gum (it helps him think). If the player clicks in an area where there is no response, icons will conveniently show up around the area clicked to tell the player what can be clicked on, instead. Unlike many other adventure games, Puzzle Agent does not have an inventory-management system – most of the objects that Tethers will pick up will be used when he hits the relevant puzzle. 

puzzle agent

Strong Points: Clever puzzles, responsive controls
Weak Points: Huge plot holes lead to an unsatisfying ending, some graphic glitches
Moral Warnings: Minor language issues, minor violence

Puzzles are, as can be expected, the main driving force behind the game. These take the form of jigsaw puzzles, logic problems, and the occasional math conundrum. Most of the puzzles are not terribly challenging, but if a hint is needed, Tethers can use some of his chewing gum in order to provide the player with a hint toward the solution (each puzzle can use up to three hints, with the final hint pretty much revealing the solution). The player can submit a solution at any time, which is either accepted or rejected by the FBI based on whether or not the answer is correct. Each time a proposed solution is sent, you get to see a “taxpayer funds” counter go up, which is pretty much the only thing the game has to a scoring system. The fewer hints used and wrong answers submitted, the better your overall score is with each puzzle. 

The art style of the game reflects that of the cartoonist Graham Annable, the developer of this game. The characters look like hand-drawn cartoons. Although a cute effect, many of the characters look the same, with only hats or haircuts to tell the difference. I did run into a few graphic glitches along the way. The characters don't move their mouths very well with the words they say, and there seems to be the occasional flicker when different animation frames are swapped out. In one instance, one of the character's eyes vanished completely.

The music was moody and atmospheric, and the voice acting was pretty good. The game has a bit of a “Fargo” feel to it, so the Minnesota accent that a few characters sport did well in setting the overall feel of the game.

The game wasn't too difficult, even with the variety of puzzles. The hardest puzzles in the game actually were optional problems, and didn't need to be solved in order to finish. There didn't seem to be any difference in finishing the game with all the puzzles completed, or the bare minimum. The entire game could be completed in four to six hours, with the optional puzzles adding another half-hour, at the most. Of course, depending on how good the player is with puzzles, the time to finish the game could be much less. 

puzzle agent
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 70%
Gameplay - 10/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 91%
Violence - 7.5/10
Language - 8/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The game is largely story-driven – as is the case with most Telltale Games products. Unfortunately, this happens to be one of the weaker parts of the game. There are a lot of questions that come up in the course of the game – such as the identity of the odd red-skinned, gnome-like creatures that keep appearing to hinder the solving of some problems. Many of these questions are addressed in the sequel, Puzzle Agent 2, but the way this game ended seemed to imply that the story was finished, and offered no indication that another chapter was even in the works. The ending felt rushed, and almost tacked on - a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise interesting, albeit quirky, mystery.

For the most part – and surprisingly considering the direction the game could have gone – there aren't a whole lot of moral concerns here. There is only one instance of “d***it” spoken. There are several threats of violence, but no one gets hurt, and aside from one instance, no one dies onscreen (and even that death could be questionable). One of the puzzles involves trying to find a rubber band amidst some tapeworms, but other than that, there isn't any gory images (and even that puzzle is largely cartoonish, rather than gruesome). 

All in all, Puzzle Agent can be an entertaining – but brief - way to pass the time. The puzzles are fun, but once they are solved, there is very little reason to replay the game. The storyline is distinctly lacking, though, and for a Telltale game – which usually relies on strong stories to carry them forward – this is surprising. Combined with the odd graphic quirks, this game may be best to pass on, unless picked up as part of a bundle.

– Sstavix


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J. Todd Cumming

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About Us:

Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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