Welcome to Scoggins, Minnesota, population 754 and home to the Scoggins Eraser factory. This factory provides erasers for the White House, or it did until recently. Now, as Agent Nelson Tethers of the FBI Department of Puzzle Research, it is up to you to investigate a mysterious explosion, a missing foreman and a factory that is locked up more tightly than Fort Knox. Get the factory running again or the president may never be able to correct his written mistakes.
So there you have the most unlikely setting for the latest game from TellTale Games. No pirates or dog and rabbit-like creature combos, and no point and click adventuring here. Instead we are treated to a game that is not too dissimilar to the Professor Layton series, albeit smaller.
There is a mystery to be solved in Scoggins. Gameplay takes the form of travelling from one area to the next and questioning the slightly odd locals, whilst helping them to solve their own puzzles along with the puzzles presented by your investigation. There are in excess of 30 puzzles in teh game of varying difficulty. Realistically, the puzzles did not offer much challenge. There were a couple that presented more of a problem understanding what the objective was, rather than any problems solving them.
But, for those that are having difficulty coming up with the answers, there is a hint function available. Agent tethers has found that he can concentrate better when he is chewing gum, but sadly the local shops are all sold out. Luckily there are bits of gum hidden around the environments that you visit and these can be collected and exchanged for hints. Not exactly sanitary, but never mind. Each puzzle has three hints available, with the third hint pretty much solving the puzzle for the most part. Not ideal, but at least it will prevent people from getting stuck.
The game has an art style that is unlike the other games from TellTale. Everything is pretty much 2D and appears to be hand drawn in a style that reminded me of kids TV from my youth. The person responsible for this is Graeme Annable, a cartoonist and creator of the graphic novel, Grickle. This, in part, explains the almost cartoon strip feeling to the graphics.
A special mention must also be made of the background music. So far Puzzle Agent may have sounded like a cute little puzzle game. But the music manages to convey a feeling of suspense and slight creepiness. Combined with the almost unsettling story, this raises the game from a Professor Layton wannabe to a puzzle riddled journey to Twin Peaks.
Which brings us to the story. The town of Scoggins is inhabited by a rather bizarre bunch of characters that would be perfectly at home in one of those movies where everything starts of normal and by the end the hero is fleeing for their life, generally being persued by axe weilding maniacs. Not that anything that drastic happens here, but the suggestion that things may take a turn for the worse is constantly apparent. I don’t want to ruin the story, but there are at least a couple of times that had me exclaiming “wtf” out loud. Although the game is only short, fitting comfortably into one afternoon, memories of the story will stay with me for a fair time. At least until the sequel arrives. And the story ends in such a way that invites a sequel, so I would be disappointed not to see one.
The puzzles contained within this game may not be exactly inspiring, but the setting and the story more than make up for it. If you enjoy a good story and fancy a bit of puzzle solving to get the brain working, this game should be top of your list. I look forward to Nelson Tethers next case.