Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent Review

By Colin Tan on July 11, 2011

From the same people that brought you mind-numbing puzzle/adventure games with a slap of chuckles on the side like Sam & Max, and most recently, Hector 101 and Back to the Future, Telltale aren't letting up the momentum. They've released a quirky little puzzle adventure on PSN which puts you in the shoes of the FBI's Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent. Nelson's your name and puzzles are the game, as the saying goes. Somewhat.

Nelson Tethers is an FBI agent, but don't let that put any pressure on your tender shoulders. In fact, he's an agent of the FBI's Puzzle Research Division and he spends most of his days working in the comfort of his air-conditioned office, with the most uncomfortable thing probably being stuck in that office chair for extended periods of time. That is, until a mysterious, creepy-as-heck figure donned in a space suit "“ don't ask, I don't even "“ appears right in front of him with a message written in red.

That's where the game kicks off, giving you your very first puzzle to solve. There's a good variety to the puzzles offered in this game and they range from the insultingly easy to the infuriating frustrating - not so much because of the game, but more so when you just get stuck in a rut. On that note, graphing out the problems can be rather handy as opposed to doing it all in your head.

It's all good and most puzzles will require that you actually sit down, observe and think about what needs to be done. After solving the first puzzle, Nelson is called up by his chief and is assigned a very, very serious case. It's a case of National Security. There's been an "incident" at the eraser factory in Scoggins, Minnesota, and the White House is all out of erasers! Eerily enough, the message left by the creepy guy in the space suit reads Scoggins.

It's been a while since Nelson's had to work a case out on the field, so he's a little bit awkward with people. Or is it that people are awkward with him? Well, in any case, Nelson heads out to Scoggins to figure out this eraser fiasco. Along the way, he'll be met with plenty of puzzles, from jigsaws to logic grids, dissections and time puzzles. Each of these puzzles have been designed to work with the story, but also as standalone pieces, the story itself isn't anything to be really amazed by as it works more as a catalyst to toss puzzles in your face "“ and gnomes at some point.

Several puzzles will have their own set of rules that has to be adhered to in order to clear a puzzle, most of which are usually logic puzzles. Take for example a puzzle that requires rearranging. There's one called Diners and Dishers and it requires that dishes be arranged in a certain order according to their customers. You're given just enough details to think about, like not a single customer ordered a dish that resembles their spouses; one of the ladies ordered a dish that looks like the fish-eating man sitting next to her; and that the ham plate needs to be placed beside the banana split. It's like school and reading comprehension all over again!

Puzzle Agent has a rather old school look to it. In fact, it looks like just about everything has been hand-drawn. The animations are awfully rigid and stiff, but it works to the benefit of the old school vibe. It's not anything to be amazed by, but it's not terrible either. What does suffer is the controls. While the PC version of the game that was released earlier last year featured proper point-and-click controls, this PSN release has done away with that in favour of a rather odd and frustrating system. You'll have to hold down the R1 button in order to bring up interactive elements on-screen, then select by using either the left analog stick or the d-pad, neither of which seem to work all that well seeing as there's little to no feedback to indicate any changes to the selections you make.

Final Thoughts

Puzzle Agent can be pretty fun, especially for those that have a knack for puzzles. It's a short game, but clearing it unlocks a free-play mode which allows you to replay any of the puzzles. It's not much in terms of replayability, but at least you can go for those top ratings. $9.99 seems a bit much when the amount of content is considered, making it slightly tough to recommend, but if you've got the extra cash floating around, or if your grandma gave you some pocket money and you love yourself some puzzles, then go for it. There's a good variety of puzzles to tackle and most are generally rather engaging.

A large array of relatively challenging puzzles.
A fun cast of characters.
The game fringes on the really short side.
Controls are a puzzle in of themselves.
Creepy guy in a space suit.
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