Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent Review

Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent is the first game in Telltale's new pilot program.  In this program, quirky concepts are given one episode as a trial.  An entire season could be ordered depending on sales, as well as consumer and media response.  This game is certainly quirky.  The gameplay is based on brain teaser games such as the Professor Layton games or the Dr. Brain games.  The presentation is based on former Telltale artist Graham Annable's Grickle comics and cartoon shorts.  The story is based on one short in particular, The Hidden People.  The short, and the game, features little gnome creatures called Hidden People who are seldom seen, but cause havoc on the people who inhabit the land where they live.  Grickle has always been known for spooky settings and dark humor, and Puzzle Agent carries on that tradition well.

I have never played a brain-teaser puzzle game before, so I don't have anything of which to compare this experience.  It's all brand new to me, and I enjoyed the experience immensely.  Nelson must solve puzzles in order to advance.  He is given a ranking based on how many hints he used and how many wrong guesses he has made.  Hints can only be used four times per puzzle, and then they can only be used if Nelson has collected enough gum.  He thinks best when he's chewing gum, and although the town is completely out of stock, there is plenty of ABC, already been chewed, gum laying around.  If you click anywhere on the screen, it will create a small ripple of energy, and you can see any area you can interact with, including gum pieces, puzzles, objects of interest, and suspects to interrogate.  The adventure game portion of the game comes from the last two methods.  There is no object collecting and no inventory, but there are adventure game staples such as talking to non-player characters using dialog trees.  It is an adventure-lite, as the puzzles in this game are logic puzzles rather than inventory puzzles.  Not every puzzle needs to be completed in order to complete the game.  The puzzles that can be found using the screen ripple method are usually not mandatory, but they help in increasing or decreasing your rank.  The rank has no bearing on the story, but like Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, it gives the game a sense of replayability that adventure games usually lack.  Also like the aforementioned game, there is a freeplay mode once the game is over so you can keep playing puzzles you missed and increase your statistics if you wish.

The sound and music are excellent.  Jared-Emerson Johnson provides a creepy soundtrack that sounds exactly like it would be at home in any Grickle video.  The characters are voiced, which is a new thing for a moving Grickle production, but the Grickle comics have always had speech bubbles.  There are speech bubbles in this game as well, which lends further to the Grickle atmosphere.  The whole game really looks like a Grickle cartoon.  The voices are all done well, as to be expected in a voice production by Bay Area Sound.  Nelson has just the right amount of naivety in his voice, which works well with a character who usually never gets the opportunity to leave his desk.  Fans of the Grickle videos will be pleased to know that the vocal effects such as screaming are present here, and used to great effect.

This game is a great departure for Telltale, but the result is a really fun gaming experience.  Hopefully this pilot turns out to be green lighted for a complete series, as it would be a shame not to be able to experience any further investigations by Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent.

Final Verdict:

4 out of 5

No comments: