Having recently completed the first in what will no doubt be a series of the Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent games, I have to admit at the end I was unsure about my feelings. Did I like this game? I’m not sure if you’ve ever had that feeling. I believe the reason for my pause was twofold: One, the game was so short it took me a mere 6 hours and 34 puzzles to beat the game and two, there was no real ending to the story.
Nelson is a Puzzle Agent with the FBI who is asked to solve the mystery of the Scoggins, Minnesota eraser factory. Scroggins is a small town that is plagued with mysteries. The story telling is good throughout the game; however there are a few elements that ruffled my feathers in a distasteful and mildly disturbing way. Firstly, as I was playing the game I noticed that Minnesota looks quite a lot like the North Pole and I shudder to think what the environment would look like if they were to develop a similar game with Ontario as the backdrop. Something tells me it would come out like a frozen hell and that just isn’t the case. Secondly, the blatant disregard for human life. Yes, I realize that most video games involve shooting as many enemy characters as possible, but the same cannot be said for puzzle games. They are meant to be more child friendly and to appeal to the casual gamer. In the game you encounter a man who has frozen to death, only to discover that he is in fact alive, but no one helps him. You walk away and leave him there to freeze to death properly. Then he stays there for the rest of the game! Have we no compassion? Can we do nothing for this poor tortured soul? We could, but we don’t.
The game is pretty straight forward; you aren’t left wondering where you should be going as the locals are more than happy to tell you just where to go. Whether you like this or not is up to you. Personally I like to wander around and figure out where to head next, but if you want clear instructions on where to go to find the next puzzle this is the game for you. As the game is short there are few locations for you to visit, so you won’t be left wandering too long even if you space out and forget what the characters told you to do. Not all the locations in the town get explored but that is likely something they will include in future games, a little landscape development for us.
The puzzles themselves range from easy to almost undecipherable. The easy puzzles include old school drag and drop puzzles where the pieces click into place, leaving very little doubt in the players mind that they have done their job correctly.
Other puzzles would leave me stumped for long periods of time and would necessitate help from others. One of the very first puzzles in the game involves deciphering a code in order to determine your room number, I will admit that I puzzled and puzzled until my puzzler was sore. Fortunately I was able to ask my trusty fiancé to come to the rescue. Once we had submitted the answer and were given the thumbs up, we checked out the explanation of “Why” we were right. Well, it was dumb luck, because neither of us had solved the puzzle the way they illustrated. This was not a good sign of things to come. A few times when solving a puzzle I was left saying “What do you want?”- Very loudly, possibly yelling.
Every other review you will read talks about the unique art style, they use broad and harsh brush strokes and comic strip style animation. This is fine with me as it is based on a series of books by Graham Annable. Why change the author’s original art style when it works so well in the books and now on this new platform. The humor is very dark in the game, which is a nice change of pace, there are also all kinds of quirky goings on that will leave you wondering why? To play the game or not play the game? That is the question. I suppose in my opinion I would wait for more games in the series to come out. It’s like when I was watching Lost and I met someone who said they would like to get into it. I would tell them to wait until the series was over and watch it from the beginning. You will torture yourself with the suspense of not knowing and wanting more answers faster. I will tell you that just because you want it doesn’t make the answers appear. Play the trial version, if you like it, buy it and support telltale, but don’t play it until more games come out or you will just be left sitting there wondering if they’ll ever explain the damn smoke monster in the woods.