Puzzle Agent 2 Review

Game: Puzzle Agent 2
Publisher: Telltale Games

Puzzle Agent 2 from Telltale Games brings us back to Scoggins, Minnesota to delve into the unresolved secrets of the first installment. The FBI’s sole agent in charge of the US Department of Puzzle Research, Nelson Tethers, has decided there’s a puzzle left unsolved.

Graham Annable returns with his sketch-art animation and folk-lore hidden people. The animation and story board are a good bit of the selling point for the Puzzle Agent series, with Graham’s ability to pack emotion into a fairly low-detail form of art. The art’s fun, unpretentious, and surprisingly engaging.

Audio in the game sets the mood nicely, complementing the gameplay and settings without being overbearing. Voice acting is on par with anything I’ve watched. The best complement I can pay any game not about music is that I don’t remember the soundtrack, only recalling that it was good.

And that’s the case here.

Too many titles wedge in music that undercuts the gameplay rather than underscoring it because someone “did music” or they’re trying to get an extra sales angle in.

Puzzles in Puzzle Agent 2 are slightly easier than in the first game. Some of the aspects that could make solving puzzles irritating have been altered. I really didn’t find them hard, more along the lines of a brain-teaser or Saturday newspaper puzzle than MENSA material.

There are also abundant hints available if riddles are a bit too challenging. Or if you don’t have knowledge of a particular subject.

Coming in at about 4 hours of playtime, Puzzle Agent 2 is a bit longer than an episode but shorter than a traditional long-format game. Which is about right for a ~10$ pricetag.

I liked the game. It was fun all the way through. With the sketch animation style, puzzles, and clean content Puzzle Agent 2 delivers.

Footnote: you should play Puzzle Agent first, since Puzzle Agent 2 is somewhat of another episode. It’s not going to hurt to start on the second chapter, but why would you want to?

Stephen R. Donaldson’s Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Fatal Revenant

We had to actually look up what “revenant” meant. Normally I would’ve had that one.. but unfortunately D&D references always skew my memory. It means, literally, ghost. Or more exactly disquited spirit (thank you Wikipedia) from Eastern European folklore.

Not having finished the novel I can’t comment on if it ends well, but at the halfway point it’s proved to be up to Donaldson’s usual standard. Characters filled with emotion and human foibles thread through the story along with the empowered embodiments of ideas and extremes. While there aren’t a huge cast of central characters each one is thoroughly, almost exhaustively, plumbed for depth in typical Covenant novel fashion.

Even taking the detail of Fatal Revenant into account (normally something that turns me off to a novel) I like the book. For some reason it clicks quite a bit better than other novels that expound at length on detail. Thinking on it, that’s probably due to the exposition being used on the characters, rather than merely their surroundings. Thomas Covenant novels evoke a visceral reaction that most books can’t, and this latest book is no exception.

On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode One from PA

I had to pick it up. There really wasn’t a way around it, what with the game being available out the gate for Linux.

And it’s good! I’ve been playing Penny Arcade’s “On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Ep1 for the past few hours (since I finished working) and it’s fun. Initially there was a bit of a hiccup loading the game but once I gave it a few tries it started up.

Another quible is that it eats massive amounts of CPU time on the x86_64 Debian release that I run on the laptop. Even so, the performance is okay once the game is going. Just don’t expect the system to be doing much else. Might be a x86_64 specific or Debian edgy specific problem, dunno.

Gameplay is similar to an updated Monkie Island or Zak McKracken. The engine is fairly novel, and delivers the story in a fun and simple manner. Don’t expect to be facing an incredibly tough stat building RPG.. the combat progression so far is fun, but it doesn’t get in the way of plot progression or the storyline.

And what a storyline! It’s got well spliced comic scenes liberally sprinkled throughout with pointed over-the-top humor that’s made Penny Arcade famous.

Rendering the PA crowd in 3D really seems to have payed off as well. The style captures quite a bit of Gabe’s feel for the pen with rounded lines and a realistic/cartoony presentation.

Check out the demo from the Greenhouse and grab a copy if you like it. For 20$ on any platform, it’s quite a bargain.

Penny Arcade Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Screenshot 1Rain Slic Precipice of Darkness 2Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Opening Screen

Dennō Coil or Coil – A Circle of Children

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Dennō Coil. The angle, youth wearing VR overlay glasses, sounded something like .hack. Fortunately that wasn’t the case.

What Dennō Coil does have is a compelling story line centering around a group of young protagonists and a not altogether far-fetched technological premise. Through the plot the authors have weaved urban legend and the vibrant imaginations of children starting to explore the wider world.

Our storytellers viewpoint for the story is well balanced with much of what happens being caused or influenced by a well-done and well thought out perspective I rarely see in film. It had me going right up to the end, not quite sure what the larger picture was.

So this is definitely one to watch. It’s got competent animation, a very approachable bit of science fiction, and a compelling story line.

Acer ASPIRE 4520 Review Forthcoming

I’ve actually had the gumption to write up the first review of the new season. All it needs are some pretty graphs and analysis of the same and it’s good to go.

Graphics-wise there is one oddity that’s throwing up a bit of a sticking point. Running the OpenGL test “glxgears” in a dedicated Xorg sessions prior to starting up an initial X session kicks in at 1500 fps … while starting the same session up after an KDE desktop is running (or after it’s been closed) results in a frame rate of 900 fps.

A roughly 30% drop.

Needless to say this will require a bit more investigation before I go to press with the review.

Genshiken at an End: Genshiken Volume 9

Kio Shimoku’s slice of life manga on the happenings of a group of high-school Otaku is at an end. Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture volume 9 wraps up the series and ends on a somewhat longer note than the original from Kodansha’s Afternoon (from which the series was reprinted).

Genshiken Volume 9The same dense art that originally had me pick up the series continues through the last book. Panel’s are filled out with expressive character action and the dialog tends toward wordplay and conversation rather than a trade of statements some manga writers over-use.

Almost all the characters that appear through the series are present for the finale. The only notable absence was the creepy former club president, who hasn’t shown up since the early issues of the series.

So all-in-all it’s a somewhat more satisfying ending than the original print release. It’s already gracing my bookshelf, go check it out.

Raymond E. Feist’s Flight of the Nighthawks

Feist is back with more novels set in his Midkemia world. Once again the Conclave of Shadows is fighting a threat to the various and sundry realms they service.

The over-arching plot in these books is fairly straightforward. There’s some evil personages, some gods, and a handful of good characters with foresight and a good view of the “bigger picture” attempting to thwart the evildoers machinations.

So the plot (although involving some well thought twists) doesn’t exactly break new ground in the Fantasy genre.

No, I think what keeps me reading Feist’s novel’s on a somewhat regular basis is that they’re just so damn well written. Each character comes off as being real rather than simply a device awaiting a certain point in the plot. Scenery is richly described. And the books chapters flow with uncanny pace . Not too quick. Not slow and grindingly mechanical.

So, the assassin’s guild is on the move with only Pug’s conclave to stand in there way. Revisit Stardock, Sorceror’s Isle, and Great Kesh in Feist’s latest work Flight of the Nighthawks.

An excellent read.