Price: $6.99   Score: 10/10   Category: Games

Puzzle Agent HD is an irresistible combination of a choose your own adventure cartoon and a fun puzzle solving game.

Serious gamers might think initially that this title from Telltale Games is actually a knockoff of the well known puzzle solving kids game featuring Professor Layton, but in fact it’s much more. The general premise is the same (where you travel through an adventure world and solve puzzles to achieve some greater goal), but Puzzle Agent HD has a charm that stands all on its own.

The game sends Agent Nelson Tethers, a member of the FBI’s puzzle solving division to Scoggins, Minnesota to figure out why the eraser factory that supplies the white house with its erasers has stopped production.

Agent Tethers meets and questions various townspeople on his trip. There’s the innskeeper with a strong Minnesotan accent, the outdoorsy lodge man who always smokes a pipe, a guy who traffics gnomes on the black market, and much more. Puzzle Agent HD is masterfully executed at every corner and the pacing is perfect.

At times it feels like you’re sitting back and watching a cartoon unfold in all its glory, but just when you start to remember that this is supposed to be a game and you should therefore be doing something, the game kicks into action mode.

In addition to finding ABC (already been chewed) gum around to help Agent Nelson Tethers concentrate, you question townspeople and watch as Tethers clumsily records his findings (or sometimes lack thereof) into a tape recorder for later review.

Puzzles are frequently integrated into the game, so sometimes you’ll solve something to cut chains from a boarded window or encourage a townsperson to talk to you about your case. Whatever the situation, Tethers ends up doing everything from figuring out how many socks a person would need to grab to get a guaranteed pair to figuring out the winner of a women’s arm wrestling match based on commentary.

All of the puzzles are challenging enough to give you a good brain tuneup but never too difficult to seem impossible. If you happen to get stuck on a puzzle you can always continue the game and return to it later. You can also use pieces of gum you’ve collected along the way in return for a series of up to three hints. Most of the time the first hint is enough to flicker a lightbulb of recognition. The second hint adds another chunk of the solution, but the third hint usually tells you how a problem should be solved.

After you submit a puzzle the taxpayer dollars spent to employ Nelson Tethers are tallied up. The puzzle is processed and then approved or rejected. If you’re wrong you jump back into puzzle mode, but an approved puzzle sends you back into the world with a rating. No hints and no wrong answers gives Agent Tethers ten out of ten stars but ratings also range from Excellent to Passable and Borderline. (The latter shows a picture of Tethers cowering in front of the camera in shame).

In addition to seemingly random puzzles, there are also riddles that relate to the actual case Tethers has gone there to solve (e.g. when a bomb went off in the factory). What’s especially clever though, is that as soon as you get into the pace of the game they throw an interesting and suspenseful surprise into the mix.

Surprises like the first one thrown at you in the middle of a puzzle are what makes the game so perfectly effective. Not only does the game capture your attention, it also pulls at your emotions in ways you’d never expect from a cartoon iPad game.

Like any good book, you’ll never want Puzzle Agent HD to end. Its adventure based gameplay that requires a little gameplay is excellent. Hopefully we’ll see a sequel in the future.

Bottom Line: Puzzle Agent HD is a charming adventure puzzle game with plenty to like. One of the best games I’ve played on the iPad so far.