Day 153: Puzzle Agent

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Someone took my copy of Professor Layton and I’m not happy about it.

Okay, so I probably just lost it in a move three years ago, but it’s more fun to think that someone sneaked out of the shadows whilst I wasn’t looking to swindle it. This would then lead me on a thematically appropriate hunt for the culprit, somehow being asked to solve increasingly complex brainteasers until I either solve the case or give up and consult a walkthrough.

That would be something, huh? A walkthrough for life? Too bad that doesn’t exist, you know, other than Duane “The Rock” Johnson’s autobiography.

But I digress.

Finding myself with that same particular itch for puzzle solving and unsure where I’d even start to look for my DS charger, I turned to Puzzle Agent. Immediately, I felt a connection to the protagonist, Nelson Tethers. Maybe it was part sympathy for his disturbing lack of eyebrows, but he’s also a man that’s very very good at a very pointless occupation. He’s not an idiot, he just has a very very particular skill set, making him just the kind of guy you’d want to send into a small town to deal with problems at an eraser factory.

Part Fargo and part Twin Peaks, I found myself a lot more invested in the scenarios presented in Puzzle Agent than I ever did with the aforementioned Layton games. Even though the core gameplay concepts are identical, the world Layton inhabited always felt rather dry, which is something that’s downright impossible to find in a Telltale game, for better or worse. Tethers plays a straight man with no social radar, mixing perfectly with a town full of people that aren’t really up to socialize. It’s actually funny, which is an increasingly rare thing to find without some degree of caveat.

As for the puzzling itself, there is the expected gradual curve of feeling like a genius before eventually bumbling into solutions and spamming the hint feature. The frustration is minimized by just how many hint items the game leaves around, fully understanding that you probably won’t get the complex math puzzles right on the first try. That could just be me, however. Nonetheless, I appreciate the adventure game portions never devolving into a pixel hunt, using a sort of on-screen sonar to tell you what you can actually interact with. It’s a feature that works so well that you wonder why it isn’t in more games of its kind.

I suppose the answer to that is because there simply aren’t enough of these games being made anymore. Probably because they make me feel dumb.

And by “me”, I mean us, you know, as a people. It’s not like I spent 20 whole minutes trying to figure out the fourth puzzle in the game.

Stop looking at me like that.

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