When it comes to puzzle-based adventure games, only one has name recognition: Professor Layton. Does Nelson Tethers come close to the celebrated Nintendo DS series? If this episode of Puzzle Agent is any indication, he just might.
Puzzle Agent stars Nelson Tethers, an FBI agent working for the U.S. Department of Puzzle Research who is assigned to investigate the mystery of an ‘incident’ at the Scoggins, Minnesota eraser factory. Like any other puzzle mystery, the townsfolk give you clues in the form of puzzles.
The point-and-click exploration of Puzzle Agent uses a control scheme that trumps most others. Tapping anywhere on the screen scans an area around your finger that shows you anything that can be inspected or talked to.
This elf is mad about getting on Santa’s naughty list.
The puzzles are all well-optimized for the touchscreen, considering Puzzle Agent was ported from the PC. Most involve drawing lines, punching in numbers, or rotating tiles. Our only gripe with the puzzles is that some are just more difficult versions of the same puzzle.
Like most other puzzle mysteries, a hint system is in place where you can request up to three hints for an item (in this case, gum) found scattered around the environment.
Puzzle Agent is loaded with cutscenes and excellent voice acting for every character. Occasionally you may run across a missing bit of audio, but every line of dialogue also shows up as a speech bubble, so this isn’t a big deal.
Just when Nelson thought it was another mundane day behind the desk…
Our biggest disappointment is that Puzzle Agent is on the short side. It lasted us about three and a half hours to complete all 37 puzzles. The reason we found the length of the game to be an issue is that the mystery cuts out right at the climax, and you find yourself back in your office, leaving the case without closure.
Puzzle Agent is available on both the iPhone and iPad (we played through the game on the latter). One thing to note about the iPad version is that it leaves a small black bar along the top and bottom of the screen, but we barely noticed it.
If the next Puzzle Agent game ties up these loose ends, Nelson Tethers could be the next great puzzle-solving mystery man. Lofty expectations aside, we found this garden gnome-filled adventure to be entertaining for a first installment.