Developer: Telltale Games
Price: HD $6.99 iPhone 4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Welcome back to Scoggins Minnesota. Agent Tethers has returned to iOS in Puzzle Agent 2,and it’s the most inventive adventure-puzzler to port to the App Store since the first instalment brought Graham Annabel’s character to life in a game that will make fans of Professor Layton not only cheer, but laugh.

This cleverly conceived mash up of story and solving takes gamers on a journey to the backwoods of Minnesota where strange things have been afoot, ever since Agent Tethers solved the eraser factory mystery the last time he was there.

Residents of the town have gone missing (including the factory foreman) spacemen appear out of nowhere (or not) and even Scoggins’ gnome-worshiping cult is at loose ends.

To unravel the plot and save the town, players help Tethers solve a series of puzzles – largely logic, sequencing and math problems – that vary in difficulty from easy to “WTH super difficult.”

Agent Tethers thinks best while chewing gum, so finding wads throughout the game can help. They are generously apportioned – use them to unlock up to three hints per puzzle, only the last of which really offers a good solve for the stumped.

You don’t need to have played the original Puzzle Agent to enjoy the sequel, but it helps. The story picks up right where the other left off.

Here’s the cinematic trailer:

I tested this game on an iPad 2, and the performance is smooth, although the animation style is intentionally choppy. There are reports of frame-rate issues on original iPads and older iPhone and iPod touch models, though I didn’t see any.

The puzzles are the point, though, and they are plentiful and – for the most part – challenging. The standouts are the art and story, here. Annabele’s quirky characters are animated with engaging voice acting and some serious strangeness more befitting a Chris Moore novel or an “X-Files” episode than an adventure game. But, as a game, it works.

Most of the puzzles are solvable without too much mental mastication, but a few left at least this one avid puzzler Googling for cheats.

Sometimes the instructions are a little less-than-clear. All it takes is an “A-ha! That’s what they mean” moment and it’s all good, but gamers better hope they have one, because there is no way to really skip puzzles if the story is to progress.

There is a replay issue inherent to most adventure games. These puzzles have right and wrong answers, and the story is inventive to say the least, but not interactive per se, so once you’ve finished the game all that’s left are a pair of bonus puzzles and some very lengthy credits.

That said, this game is a gem, and a nice change of pace for those who don’t think of catapulting birds or slashing ropes as true puzzles. Ardent solvers may play through the game in a night, but it will be a fun night. Dont’t forget to watch for Puzzle Agent 3 to find out if Agent Tethers ever gets to try the famous “hot dish.”

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