Well, this is unfair. Puzzle Agent is not a really clone of the Professor Layton series well known on the Nintendo platforms. It’s certainly very, very similar in about all aspects, and plays very much the same: you have an overarching storyline for a detective-like character, and throughout your investigation you end up solving a bunch of random puzzles, not always completely related to whatever you are doing or where you are. I am assuming some of you guys have played Layton on DS or 3DS, and the whole story plot is usually an excuse for shoving more puzzles in your face than you can take. But Professor Layton’s series has a distinct visual style, music and overall atmosphere that is kind of pleasing, and certainly distinctive.
Before I go any further, in case you are wondering why I am reviewing this game - well it’s technically for Windows, but if you get the DRM-free version, and you have WINE installed on your Linux machine, it’s as painless as things go. Just run the installer with WINE, and there are no other dependencies required at all (at most you will simply need to create a launcher to execute the Grickle101.exe launcher in ~/.wine/drive_c/Program Files (x86)/Telltale Games/Puzzle Agent/Puzzle Agent/). Just like most other Telltales games, it runs flawlessly without any additional script or config. This always makes me wonder why Telltales does not release any WINE-based version of their games for Linux, if they really have no wish to support the platform by themselves it’s almost just a click away in any case. But I digress.
Telltales’ Puzzle Agent puts you in control of Agent Tethers from the FBI bureau of puzzle investigations, in charge of solving the mystery of an accident in a Erasers factory located in a remote, snowy area. You may be familiar with other Telltales games like the Walking Dead series but this is actually quite different. Here, there are no 3D characters, every protagonist is hand-drawn and 2D animated. It looks a little weird and ugly at first (there are very few animation frames so it kind of looks jerky) but after a few minutes you will get used to it and stop caring too much - until you find the 2D style actually pretty good to convey emotions. All dialogue is spoken so that’s already one difference with Layton where only the key cinematics had digitized dialogues.
Puzzles are numerous here too and you need to solve most of them to progress in the story, as usual. Where Layton shoves you completely random puzzles, Puzzle Agent does try to integrate things a little better with the ongoing situation. For example, finding the path to a certain area on your snowmobile leads a snowmobile-theme puzzle on a map. Looking at the window where gnomes statues are standing leads to a gnome statues puzzles, and so on. Sometimes it’s more far-fetched than that, but overall they try pretty hard to make a link between the situation at hand and the puzzles to solve. On top of that, the story is actually pretty funny. Nonsensical, for sure, but funny. This is the speciality of all Telltales games: they are usually good at writing plots, and Puzzle Agent is no exception.
So, is this a Layton killer? Well, yes and no. Layton wins hands down by the sheer variety of puzzles and their difficulty. In Puzzle Agent most of the puzzles are dead easy to solve, while some are definitely a little harder but still feasible with a couple of hints. I remember being stuck for far longer in Layton. And just like most Telltales games, this game is really short. I think it took me less than 3 hours to get from start to finish. Which is good if you were looking for quick entertainment, but a little disappointing if you were expecting something as long as Layton’s stories. Not only is it short, but the ending is really abrupt - you were on to discover some kind of phenomenon, and like that, the game ends without providing much an explanation on what was actually happening.
So there you have it. It’s currently on sale at the time of writing on Humble Bundle, DRM-Free, this is where I got it myself at 1.24 US$ or something. At this kind of price, I’d say it was completely worth it.