In Puzzle Agent 2, you play as special agent Nelson Tethers of the F.B.I.'s Puzzle Research Division. Essentially, the Puzzle Research Division is like the X-files for crossword junkies. After wrapping up the Eraser Factory Case which took place during the events of the first Puzzle Agent game, Agent Tethers is ready for a nice long vacation… except there's one loose end that's troubling him: the whereabouts of former factory foreman Issac Danvers. The F.B.I. has closed the case, but Agent Tethers can't seem to let it go. Determined to tie up the loose ends and mark the case as solved, Agent Tethers returns to the sleepy, snow-covered town of Scoggins, MN. Will he be able to find Issac Danvers and the rest of the missing Scoggins townsfolk, or does the evil Brotherhood, a gnome worshiping cult, have other plans for the ambitious agent? It is your mission to unlock the secrets of Scoggins and find the missing residents, solving puzzles all the while.
Puzzle Agent 2's gameplay is best described as a hybrid, mixing adventure-style dialog and exploration and puzzle solving with little bit of hidden object-style investigation. This mix really helps drive the player to explore the town of Scoggins and uncover as many secrets as they can wrap their puzzle-solving brain around. The art style and story are inspired by the work of cartoonist/storyboard artist Graham Annabell and both are very refreshing. I'm a big fan of hand drawn art in games and this one has it in spades. The animation leaves a bit to be desired, but being a smaller title I will say that it's entirely forgivable and doesn't detract from the game. I might even say that the stop-motion effect gives the game a certain simple charm. The movement may be a little odd, but the facial animations and expressions are a big part of the humor. When you see Agent Tethers running towards the camera wearing nothing but his underwear and an oven mitt with his weird legs flying all over the place, I'm sure you will crack a smile.
The music is subtle yet evocative, and does a great job of making the player feel uneasy when things are weird and scared when thing are, well, scary. Not to say that this is a scary game, but it is a little on the dark side. However, it’s not so dark that puzzle solvers of all ages wouldn't enjoy it.
The puzzles can be a little tricky at times but they weren't anything I couldn't handle. The game does feature a hint system based on chewed gum you find stuck to walls or tables around Scoggins. Each piece of gum allows you to ask for help with a puzzle, but you only get three hints. Even if you have 30 pieces of gum, three hints is your maximum per puzzle. Using hints or submitting an incorrect solution directly effects how you will score on each puzzle. To score top marks you'll need to solve the puzzle with no hints and submit the correct solution on the first try. If you're thinking trial and error will get you through this case, you may be right, but your score and rank on each puzzle will suffer dearly.
Overall I thought Puzzle Agent 2 had a fun story full of twists, turns, and tasty red herrings. The residents of Scoggins are an eclectic bunch, who normally have interesting anecdotes to tell about the town, or in some cases, seem to be completely off their rocker. If you like solving puzzles with a purpose and unraveling a really weird mystery featuring crazy Sasquatch enthusiasts, deranged cultists, and mysterious magic gnomes, then give Puzzle Agent 2 a try. But I warn you, beware The Hidden People…