Grant Hatchimonji is currrent attending PAX East in Boston, and will be bringing a number of reports from this game-oriented convention.
When Puzzle Agent was introduced by Telltale Games last June, apparently project leads Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin didn’t have much faith in its success.
“We initially did a six-page [story] treatment and only used half of it for the first game,” said Jake. “We never thought we’d be able to finish the story, but a bunch of people bought the game, so we’re really excited.”
So Puzzle Agent 2 is now on its way, scheduled for a spring or summer release on the iPhone, iPad, PC, and Mac, with a PlayStation Network version in the works, as well. Both games, the sequel especially, are well-suited for touch interfaces like those found on the iPhone and iPad.
“I played through the entire first game on my iPhone,” said Vanaman. “It was so much fun.”
In the Puzzle Agent games, you star as Nelson Tethers, quite literally an FBI agent dedicated to solving puzzles. For your first case, you’re assigned to solve puzzles in the town of Scoggins, Minnesota, resulting in a game that was described by Telltale representative Alex Brewer as, “Professor Layton meets Fargo.”
Puzzle Agent 2 picks up right where Puzzle Agent left off (which was apparently a bit of a cliffhanger) and continues in the same simplistic, hand-drawn, comic book visual style — thanks to the art of Graham Annable — that is found in the first game.
In somewhat of an oddity for Telltale, the Puzzle Agent games are not episodic, but they do contain elements of the point-and-click adventure that provide the basis of so many Telltale titles. Much of the game, however, is dedicated to solving pop-out puzzles and mini games in order to progress. As you complete puzzles, they are tracked in your “case log” and you’re able to revisit them at any time to replay them for better scores or just for kicks.
Vanaman described the game as a “balance of internal and external gameplay,” as you solve the mystery behind the people of the town that are apparently being driven crazy by whispering forest gnomes. It’s every bit as bizarre as it sounds, but undeniably hilarious.
Rodkin and Vanaman added that the puzzles in Puzzle Agent 2 will be much more oriented towards tactile controls. To give me an idea of what they were talking about, Rodkin pulled up a puzzle from the first game on his iPad and showed me how you had to use the touchscreen controls to create lengths of rope to separate the bugs in an insane man’s bug collection (to his specifications, of course).
It was a whacky premise, but still fun and mind-bending (for example, each grasshopper needed X amount of empty cells adjacent to it, while each beetle required Y empty cells in its vicinity). Admittedly, this sort of thing had to be played with a touchscreen; to do it with a controller or a mouse and keyboard would not only be less fun and interactive, it could get downright clunky at times.
Puzzle Agent 2, while it is a continuation of the same story, will “double the real estate,” as Vanaman put it, allowing players to investigate many familiar territories from the first game while also introducing just as many new places to explore. The game will be roughly the same length, featuring the same number of puzzles as the first; 36 puzzles, about two-thirds of which are necessary to complete to get through the story. The remaining third are supplemental and purely for fun.
Other upgrades that players will see in the sequel include a “twistier” story, as Vanaman put it, as well as new story threads, characters, and types of puzzles. Vanaman explained that the team actually hired an external puzzle designer to get some fresh, inspired material in Puzzle Agent 2.
“We met with this guy at a restaurant in Los Angeles, and he showed up with this gigantic manila folder just packed with puzzle ideas,” he said. Can’t wait to see what made the final cut.