A couple of weeks ago, we had a chance to get some hands-on time with the iPhone and iPad version of Puzzle Agent from Telltale Games. The story of FBI puzzle detective Nelson Tethers was coming together nicely for the iOS devices, and now the game is finally available. Puzzle Agent succeeds beautifully in the art style and story departments, but falls a little flat with the actual gameplay offered. If you go into Puzzle Agent expecting a robust puzzle game with a lot of content and replayability, you'll likely be disappointed. However, if you're looking for an excellent mystery to solve with humorous characters and an interesting plot, you'll find a lot to enjoy about the overall experience of Puzzle Agent.

The game starts with Nelson sitting at his desk in the FBI headquarters. You can tell he doesn't see a whole lot of action, as he is surprised to receive a phone call asking him to go on an assignment in the field. The eraser factory in Scoggins, Minnesota has ceased production, and thus been unable to supply the White House with their required allotment of erasers. All inquiries as to what the problem is at the eraser factory have resulted in odd puzzle-related responses from the townsfolk in Scoggins, making Nelson the perfect candidate to have investigate the situation. You'll travel to Scoggins to question people, solve puzzles, and uncover a twisted tale of what has gone awry at the eraser factory.

Puzzle Agent functions similar to other point-and-click adventure games, giving you a scene with various interactive elements to investigate. A circle will emanate from wherever you touch on the screen, and an icon will show up within that circle if something can be interacted with. I love this mechanic as it allows me to easily check an entire area for clues without tapping on every square inch of the screen. Talking with characters in the game is definitely the high point of Puzzle Agent. Each character is fully voiced and has multiple points of conversation to engage in. The amount of personality and humor that the characters exude through the dialogue is phenomenal, and playing through Puzzle Agent is analogous to watching a well crafted animated film. The art style is also very pleasing, featuring the minimalist hand drawn style of Graham Annable who created the Grickle comics and animated shorts.

iPad screenshots (click to enlarge):

The actual puzzles you'll be solving in Puzzle Agent are a mixed bag. Some are interesting, intuitive, and fun while others are just plain awkward and frustrating. Many times it's just not clear what you are supposed to be doing in a given puzzle. A hint system is in place in case you get stuck, so it never really prevents you from progressing, but it can be annoying to spend time trying to solve a difficult puzzle with trial and error when you are immersed in the story. Another frustration with Puzzle Agent is the controls. The game is designed very well for touch screen, but the actual responsiveness when touching or dragging items is not so great. It feels like the game is optimized for the mouse and cursor of the Mac/PC version, and using the larger surface of a fingertip doesn't afford the precision needed to perform some of the basic actions in the game.

There also isn't much reason to go back and play the game once you've beaten it, as the puzzles and story don't change. One important point to bring up is that Puzzle Agent looks far better on the iPad than it does on the iPhone. Many of the textures are blurry and show signs of artifacting, and are a far cry from the App Store screen shots that look like they are optimized for Retina Display.  This leads me to believe that it's just a bug with the release version that doesn't allow it to display the game in the proper resolution, although I have yet to confirm this. It doesn't completely ruin the game, but it is a significant distraction. The iPad version doesn't seem to exhibit this problem, and hopefully the issue gets rectified with the iPhone version soon.

Even with these issues, Puzzle Agent is still a really enjoyable experience. And that's what it really boils down to - it's better served as an exceptional entertainment experience rather than an exceptional game. The art style, music, voice acting, and story are incredibly well done, but the controls and puzzles are pretty hit and miss. If you're looking for something akin to an enjoyable interactive movie, Puzzle Agent serves this purpose really well.

Update: We've been in contact with Telltale games and the artifact problem with the textures is indeed a bug. The dev team is away at PAX this week, and so will be looking into a fix for the problem next week and rolling out an update as soon as possible.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://klicktock.com Matt

    You're dead right about the iPhone graphics. It's one of the ugliest iPhone games I've ever seen. Texture resolutions are all over the shop, the edges are all messed up. It really interferes with my ability to enjoy the game.

    Anyone from Telltale about to comment on this in an official capacity?

  • http://klicktock.com Matt

    You're dead right about the iPhone graphics. It's one of the ugliest iPhone games I've ever seen. Texture resolutions are all over the shop, the edges are all messed up. It really interferes with my ability to enjoy the game.

    Anyone from Telltale about to comment on this in an official capacity?

  • ultimo

    I was about to mention that PpL won't buy stuff for $5 without much Glittr, Matt beat me on tht

  • ultimo

    I was about to mention that PpL won't buy stuff for $5 without much Glittr, Matt beat me on tht

  • Joe

    I have a 3G ipodtouch. How do the graphics look on that device?

    • ultimo

      It ain't about the device.... the gfx are made so intentionally

  • Joe

    I have a 3G ipodtouch. How do the graphics look on that device?

    • ultimo

      It ain't about the device.... the gfx are made so intentionally

  • Kev

    I'm exited about this game, personally I kinda like the look of the graphics. This one's definitely on my 'to-get' list, but I'm currently playing Prof. Layton and the Diabolical Box on my NDS and The Jim and Frank Mysteries on my iTouch, so I want to at least finish on of them before grabbing another puzzle adventure.

  • Kev

    I'm exited about this game, personally I kinda like the look of the graphics. This one's definitely on my 'to-get' list, but I'm currently playing Prof. Layton and the Diabolical Box on my NDS and The Jim and Frank Mysteries on my iTouch, so I want to at least finish on of them before grabbing another puzzle adventure.

  • No Way

    In the screen cap of the plate with food, shouldn't it say Dinner plate, not Diner plate?

    -1

    • LuigiHann

      @No Way
      The Diner Plate puzzle is set in a diner, so I'm guessing it's a pun, not a typo.

  • No Way

    In the screen cap of the plate with food, shouldn't it say Dinner plate, not Diner plate?

    -1

    • LuigiHann

      @No Way
      The Diner Plate puzzle is set in a diner, so I'm guessing it's a pun, not a typo.

  • http://www.vipilan.net forex

    I love this game so much in a very beautiful and nice thank you

    • ultimo

      Mods.... Forex's website should not be here....

  • http://www.vipilan.net forex

    I love this game so much in a very beautiful and nice thank you

    • ultimo

      Mods.... Forex's website should not be here....

  • Alex

    Hello, I completed this game (on my 3rd Gen iPod Touch) and I have to agree, this has to be the ugliest cartoon-styled game I have ever played. The textures have been rendered at a low quality which looks like has been done to save space (or it could just be a bug) I hope Telltale change/fix this, and fix the ending. The game, while surprisingly short, has no replay value and has one of the worst endings since I watched the film Knowing. I am no going to spoil it for those that haven't completed the game yet, but come on!
    Agent Tethers Out. (lol)

    • Joe

      If you did not like the game's look, why did you get it..?

      • http://klicktock.com Matt

        Because the real game looks nothing like the screenshots. Hop onto the forum for comparisons.

      • Alex

        Because the trailers, screenshots and other media depicted the graphics as much better, and I don't just buy a game for its graphics. I was merely making a statement as to how the game looks. Also, as they have said it is a bug, maybe an update will allow me to retract my statement. I hope so, the PC/Mac/iPad versions look wonderful.

  • Alex

    Hello, I completed this game (on my 3rd Gen iPod Touch) and I have to agree, this has to be the ugliest cartoon-styled game I have ever played. The textures have been rendered at a low quality which looks like has been done to save space (or it could just be a bug) I hope Telltale change/fix this, and fix the ending. The game, while surprisingly short, has no replay value and has one of the worst endings since I watched the film Knowing. I am no going to spoil it for those that haven't completed the game yet, but come on!
    Agent Tethers Out. (lol)

    • Joe

      If you did not like the game's look, why did you get it..?

      • http://klicktock.com Matt

        Because the real game looks nothing like the screenshots. Hop onto the forum for comparisons.

      • Alex

        Because the trailers, screenshots and other media depicted the graphics as much better, and I don't just buy a game for its graphics. I was merely making a statement as to how the game looks. Also, as they have said it is a bug, maybe an update will allow me to retract my statement. I hope so, the PC/Mac/iPad versions look wonderful.

  • Steve H

    This looks good. The only game I played on the Nintendo DS before selling it was Professor Layton and I like Jeff and Frank on the iPhone. The problem I have with these games is that there are certain types of brainteasers like rearranging matchsticks, or finding a path without retracing steps, or breaking a code. After awhile you feel like you're revisiting the same puzzle. I like how Puzzle Quest takes a consistent puzzle but augments the game. I'd like to see someone do one of these games with a puzzle system like The Jumble or crunching big numbers or solving physics equations :p

  • Steve H

    This looks good. The only game I played on the Nintendo DS before selling it was Professor Layton and I like Jeff and Frank on the iPhone. The problem I have with these games is that there are certain types of brainteasers like rearranging matchsticks, or finding a path without retracing steps, or breaking a code. After awhile you feel like you're revisiting the same puzzle. I like how Puzzle Quest takes a consistent puzzle but augments the game. I'd like to see someone do one of these games with a puzzle system like The Jumble or crunching big numbers or solving physics equations :p

  • David

    i'm not surprised with the graphics, look at the size and the fact that the game consists of full voice (compared to jim&frank, even their app was bigger!)..
    33 MB! how should the graphics look like with 33MB, they must've reduced the quality it to full-eye-cancer mode, like it is..so disappointing!!!

  • David

    i'm not surprised with the graphics, look at the size and the fact that the game consists of full voice (compared to jim&frank, even their app was bigger!)..
    33 MB! how should the graphics look like with 33MB, they must've reduced the quality it to full-eye-cancer mode, like it is..so disappointing!!!

  • Resv

    I use to work at Telltale, and to be honest, they have ALWAYS had problems porting games from their proprietary engine. The graphics programing team at TTG is some of the best and most talented guys around however there are other issues, and people, that plague game development. I don't know if anyone at the company has said this yet but originally the game had NO voice what so ever! It was exactly like the Grickle cartoons and only had random screams and funny music. The decision to add character voices was made and it ended up delaying the project MONTHS. If I remember correctly the game was finished and ready to go in May for an early June release. That 33 megs of game is mostly compressed audio files and the game itself is probably compressed all to hell and back which explains why the game looks and runs so badly.

    • Andrew G L

      So are you saying don't expect an update? I've already bought the game but would just as soon wait for an update to play through.

      I have to say. I work in graphics and I'm stunned that anyone thought this was fit for release. It had me wondering if the wrong file was sent to Apple. And with file size not an issue there's no excuse.

      Am I seeing art that was compressed to hell then REcompressed on top of that? Because that's sure what it looks like. It's actually making me angry imagining that someone who paid good money to prep those files.

      I'm a big Graham Annable fan, and I can't imagine he's satisfied with how his art looks.

  • Resv

    I use to work at Telltale, and to be honest, they have ALWAYS had problems porting games from their proprietary engine. The graphics programing team at TTG is some of the best and most talented guys around however there are other issues, and people, that plague game development. I don't know if anyone at the company has said this yet but originally the game had NO voice what so ever! It was exactly like the Grickle cartoons and only had random screams and funny music. The decision to add character voices was made and it ended up delaying the project MONTHS. If I remember correctly the game was finished and ready to go in May for an early June release. That 33 megs of game is mostly compressed audio files and the game itself is probably compressed all to hell and back which explains why the game looks and runs so badly.

    • Andrew G L

      So are you saying don't expect an update? I've already bought the game but would just as soon wait for an update to play through.

      I have to say. I work in graphics and I'm stunned that anyone thought this was fit for release. It had me wondering if the wrong file was sent to Apple. And with file size not an issue there's no excuse.

      Am I seeing art that was compressed to hell then REcompressed on top of that? Because that's sure what it looks like. It's actually making me angry imagining that someone who paid good money to prep those files.

      I'm a big Graham Annable fan, and I can't imagine he's satisfied with how his art looks.

  • Mike

    The update that says that the graphics issue is a bug and they will look into fixing it is at least a step in the right direction. I will buy this as soon as the graphics are fixed.

  • Mike

    The update that says that the graphics issue is a bug and they will look into fixing it is at least a step in the right direction. I will buy this as soon as the graphics are fixed.

  • Lucien

    Hmm! There's no multitasking either. I can't get anywhere with the first part ss I've had a couple of calls and so the game restarts when you go back in. :(

    Hopefully the update will fix this and retina support.

  • Lucien

    Hmm! There's no multitasking either. I can't get anywhere with the first part ss I've had a couple of calls and so the game restarts when you go back in. :(

    Hopefully the update will fix this and retina support.

  • SImon

    And to think that this game is featured prominently by Apple on the App Store, makes one wonder if it just the brand name (or studio name) that counts or if they pay attention to the actual submitted game itself.

    • http://appyzilla.com trish

      I couldn't agree more with you simon i saw it as a featured app on itunes and thought of doing some research because of its price and look where i ended up....dont think will buy the game after reading all this .

  • SImon

    And to think that this game is featured prominently by Apple on the App Store, makes one wonder if it just the brand name (or studio name) that counts or if they pay attention to the actual submitted game itself.

    • http://appyzilla.com trish

      I couldn't agree more with you simon i saw it as a featured app on itunes and thought of doing some research because of its price and look where i ended up....dont think will buy the game after reading all this .

Puzzle Agent HD Reviewed by Jared Nelson on . Rating: 4.5