Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent

Go To

Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent is an adventure/puzzle game by Telltale Games, in collaboration with Graham Annable. It is the first game to come out of Telltale's pilot project and is based on Graham's Grickle series of short Flash cartoons and books. It was released on June 30, 2010.

Agent Nelson Tethers (voiced by Doug Boyd) is the only employee in the FBI's ignored Puzzle Research Division. At the start of the game, he is given his first field assignment in years: The factory that produces the erasers used by the White House has mysteriously stopped production and any attempt to contact them have been replied with puzzles. Tethers is sent to the small town of Scoggins, Minnesota, the location of the factory, to investigate what happened. When he arrives, he finds that the townsfolk are quite obsessed with puzzles. He also discovers that the factory is sealed with a strange lock and that there was some sort of "accident" involving an explosion in the factory. The factory's foreman, Isaac Davner, has also disappeared after the accident. During the course of the investigation, Tethers encounters strange red gnome-like creatures who hinder his progress. Who or what are these strange creatures? Why are they doing all this? And why are some of the townsfolk acting so suspicious?

A sequel, Puzzle Agent 2, was released exactly one year later on June 30, 2011. Though the case is officially closed with the eraser factory back up and running, Isaac Davner is still missing and there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Nelson decides to take some vacation time and head back to Scoggins to get to the bottom of things, only to find that the mysteries go much deeper than anyone had thought...

Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent gives examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The characters are 2D but some things are 3D, like landscapes and certain objects.
  • Alien Fair Folk: The Hidden People are actually some lunar spirits.
  • Alliterative Name: About half of the puzzle titles are alliterative.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Nelson finds a suspect frozen solid while trying to solve a puzzle in the woods. After Nelson solves the puzzle, the frozen man gives him a gear and dies.
  • Badass Bookworm: Nelson does some surprisingly athletic stuff for a guy who spends most of his time in an office, chewing gum and solving crosswords. His feats include breaking out of a sinking shack on an ice pond, blowing up an impassable garbage heap with a furnace, staring down an angry sheriff, and shooting three gnomes in the head with his eyes closed. Unfortunately, that last one leads to a Bullet Catch.Unexpected as it may be, the Department of Puzzle Research is part of the FBI for a reason.
  • Beat It by Compulsion: Realizing Scoggins' residents were more or less addicted to puzzles, Nelson throws a Crossword Puzzle at Sheriff Bahg when held a gunpoint. True to form, the compulsion has Bahg immediately going to do the crossword puzzle, allowing Nelson to escape.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:Almost everyone in Scoggins, but especially Glori.
    • Subverted in the sequel. They are all asking Nelson for help this time, and Glori explains that she did what she did so the Brotherhood could help her husband.
  • Bullet Catch: At the end of the first game, when you finally get to the foreman, the Hidden People catch Nelson's shots with their teeth.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Norwegian. "Scoggins" is a phonetic spelling of 'skogen', the forest. The Brotherhood of Scoggins has a sign reading "brødre av skogen", literally 'brothers of the forest'. Finally, "korka" is a slang term basically meaning nutcase.
  • Bystander Syndrome: In the first game. "Any missing persons can be handled by the local authorities."
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': Agent Tethers never suffers any consequences for deliberately interfering with other government agencies, from Sheriff Bahg to The Men in Black. The worst that happens is he gets locked in his hotel room, whereas the guy who helped him is Reassigned to Antarctica.
    • That being said, Nelson lets the sheriff get away with holding him at gunpoint and Glori for trying to kill him.
  • Cassette Craze: Nelson does this. He has a tendency to ramble on without remembering to turn it off.
  • Cat Scare
  • Character Tics: Nelson compulsively records his thoughts with a tape recorder, even when it isn't a good idea. He also tends to adjust his hat or cough into his hand when he enters a new area.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Nelson becomes one over the course of the second game. His ally Korka dismisses his talk of the Hidden People and astronauts as crazy because she believes in an entirely different conspiracy involving Bigfoot.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Nelson doesn't look very competent or very tough, but he tackles his assignment with alacrity and diligence, and accomplishes several feats of derring-do along the way.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Korka is obsessed with the conspiracy theory involving a human/Bigfoot hybrid, only for one to show up at the end of the second game and help you destroy the lunacy ray.
  • Deconstructive Parody: This game is basically Professor Layton, but with the main character noticing the stupid amount of puzzles in-game and a much more serious reason why: most of the town is in some sort of cult that worship gnomes. The gnomes' main method of communication is puzzles. This has caused the entire town to become pathologically addicted to puzzles.
  • Defective Detective: Although Nelson is shown to be a good detective, you can see that he'd rather be back in his basement office. This may be because he hasn't had a field mission in — as he states — "quite some time" (which means he probably hasn't been on the field for a couple of YEARS) — and that his specialty is puzzle solving. Not to mention all the creepy stuff going on in Scoggins.
    "I like my office. It's warm in my office. It's quiet in my office. There are no maniacal gnomes or chainsaw-wielding waitresses in my office!"
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Nelson likes chewing gum. It helps him think. And when he learns that there's no way he'll be able to buy any in Scoggins, he almost has a panic attack until he starts collecting used pieces of gum that have been left on the walls, floors, and furnishings of Scoggins.
    • This is probably also a reference to Sherlock Holmes.
    • There's some Real Life evidence that chewing gum does help you concentrate, although none of the researchers have yet to comment on chewing used gum.
  • Downer Ending: In the first game. Sadly, you don't get to rescue the foreman, and the government won't let you. Why? Because "Any missing persons can be handled by local law enforcement." Apparently, he doesn't know anything about the sheriff...
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Nelson somehow gets dreams about meeting up with an astronaut in both games.
    • Supposedly, it's the Hidden People sending him a message.
  • Easily Forgiven: Nelson decides not to dwell on the fact that Glori Davner tried to kill him.
  • Exact Words: In the sequel, "Isaac Davner Does Not Exist." Because his real name is Ed Davis.
  • The Fair Folk: The Gnomes AKA the Hidden People.
  • Foreshadowing: The Scoggins sign has a full moon on it.
  • Formulaic Magic: Essentially, anyway - the second game's plot involves an astronomer's search for a mathematical explanation of/cure for lunacy.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The J. Edgar Hoover Building's directory at the beginning has a Long List of departments before it ends at Puzzle Investigation. Examples include Plush Agent Knittery, Maimtron Factory, Lagomorphology, Department of Cheeses, Housewares, "Personal" Affairs, Department of Wizardry, Department of Seamstresses, Moonfire Spam, Cracking Toast, Bubbleopolis, Vampire Military, Department of Lists...
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Most of the Special Agents just stand around in their places, and don't react to, for example, a deranged FBI agent in his underwear dismantling the Lunar Ray they've been set to guard.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The apparent fate of everyone who the gnomes speak to.
    • It's because they need help destroying the Lunar Ray that's repelling them from their home.
  • Guide Dang It!: One puzzle shows a couple of coins without showing their values - it's very easy to solve if you're an American, impossible if you're not.
  • Hate Plague: The Lunar Ray in the second game seems to work like this, inducing violence and lack of self-awareness. Tethers, thankfully, manages to keep himself together well enough to direct that violence towards the ray itself.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Several times throughout the games, you'll encounter a puzzle, but can only take a few moves before Tethers notes that he doesn't have all the required information to solve it.
  • Interface Screw: A few times throughout the first game, the Hidden People will appear (along with a Scare Chord and a few close-up frames) and take a piece of your current puzzle. In the second game, a puzzle gets interrupted by The Men in Black.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Tethers records all his observations into a dictaphone he carries with him. That's ALL his observations.
    • That actually becomes VERY VERY important in the second game. He sent all of his tapes to Jim in the Vegetable Division — whom Nelson asked to file them while away — and Jim notes that the tape kept playing around the time he saw a Hidden Person communicate with Bo.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    Sherrif Bahg: Oh, and Tethers? Put my furniture back and fix my door on your way out.
  • Last Note Nightmare: The first game's credits end with a Scare Chord. Same with the second. Graham Annable likes using certain audio cues as a theme.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle: Unique variation. Most of the first game is spent acquiring three gears that you need to open the factory's puzzle lock. They break apart to form one large jigsaw-puzzle gear that you must snap into place.
  • Lunacy: Involved in the second game's plot.
  • Minnesota Nice: Martha Garrett, who has the accent and verbal tics, along with an interest in hot dish.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: Sorry, the joke just had to be made.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The reason why Nelson is in Scoggins in the first place. He needs to solve this town's problem or the president won't have his erasers!
    • Lampshaded at the end when a senior agent notes that the Prez probably wasn't even aware there was a problem.
    • Submitting a puzzle via mail costs about $ 75,642.98 taxpayers dollars.
  • Naked Nutter: In the second game, Nelson summons the Hidden People to speak to him so he can figure out how to destroy the lunacy ray. When the game cuts back to reality, he's fiddling with the ray while only wearing his hat, his underwear and an inexplicable oven mitt.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Hooray! You've made it to the factory and found the foreman! Thanks for helping the Hidden People get to him by solving all the puzzles and clearing the blocks and gaps in the walkway.
    • It's actually subverted. On the hydraulics puzzle, one of the button falls and a Hidden Person tosses it back to him. They did take the foreman but that was because they needed Nelson's help not that it hurt much in the end. Isaac's kidnapping was necessary to solve the conflict in the second game a few months in-game later.
    • In the sequel, Nelson's tapes that he keeps sending to FBI to be filed (even though he's on "vacation") result in The Men in Black swarming the town. Apparently, holding on to the tapes and sending them all later doesn't occur to Nelson at all.
  • No Sense of Direction: Nelson can't find the hotel at which he's supposed to stay in Scoggins. After solving a puzzle to lead Nelson to the hotel, he ends up where he was before he started the puzzle. Turns out he was there the whole time.
    • Apparently, his sense of direction is improved in the sequel, where he can easily retrace his steps after solving a puzzle, despite running away the last time he was there.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Somehow, two hulking astronauts in spacesuits can appear behind Nelson without him noticing them walk in the snow. Repeated by Isaac Davner and a Bigfoot (although the latter can be justified by Nelson being delirious at the time, oblivious to his surroundings).
  • Only Sane Man: Nelson Tethers in the first game. Less so in the sequel.
    • In the first game, Tethers sees Martha Garrett as one of the more rational people in town, but she does have a few puzzles that need solved.
    • In the second game, Korka seems pretty well adjusted too. Then she turns out to be a conspiracy nut who believes in the Bigfoot... who then turns out to be real.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: The Hidden People. Especially since they're creepy as hell and some kind of lunar spirits.
  • Point of No Return: In the first game, when you assemble the third gear. However, any optional puzzles you missed may be performed after the credits.
  • Power-Up Food: Chewing gum is used to give Nelson hints on puzzles. Apparently he gains hypercognitive insight from chewing gum.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Jim Ingraham from the Vegetable Division at the end of the second game, for helping Nelson.
  • Scare Chord: When the hidden people first show up in one of your puzzles, it can be quite scary.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Nelson.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the second game, Nelson gets a postcard from Isaac and Glori from the Bermudas. Nelson asks, "What could possibly go wrong in Bermuda?"
    • The postcard also shows Principle Skeleton from the Grickle cartoons lurking in the background.
  • Sexy Scandinavian: Korka, though she has dark hair instead of the traditional blonde.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the puzzles in the sequel is named Cross the Streams.
    • Director Jennings in the sequel mentions that the local diner in this secluded, northern forest town serves some damn fine milkshakes.
    • The fuse puzzle in the first game is taken straight from Professor Provolone's Picto-Puzzle from "Lisa The Simpson".
    • On his first meeting with Korka, Nelson asks her for "Just the facts, ma'am".
  • Seven Minute Lull: Played with: When Nelson is explaining his findings to Director Jennings — who is noisily slurping a milkshake to drown out what Nelson is saying — Nelson eventually screams, "THE ASTRONAUTS IN THE FOREST ARE MURDERING PEOPLE!" after everything had gone silent.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Spoofed: There are twin brothers named Daryl and Darrel. Part of Nelson's job in the sequel is to find Darrel.
  • Throwing the Distraction:
    • A bad guy about to shoot you? Throw a crossword puzzle to the side, and he instantly jumps towards it.
    • In the sequel, Nelson distracts a guard by throwing a rock at him. The guard looks around randomly for a while, then leaves inexplicably.
  • The Unreveal: Every time there's the dream with the astronaut, it cuts to Nelson waking up and the players never seeing behind the visor.
  • Vast Bureaucracy: The FBI has departments for a large number of implausible subjects.
    • The Cuckoolander Was Right: One of the departments in the FBI above Puzzle Investigation is Big foot/Sasquatch Research, Which make Korka's conspiracy theory more realistic. But it is uncertain if Nelson is aware of their existence prior.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Somewhat. If you mess up in puzzles, you'll cost U.S. taxpayers more and more money for each subsequent failure. Mess up a lot and you can make a single puzzle cost more than a million dollars!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Nelson never actually finds any of the missing people in the second game and forgets about them after finding Isaac Davner. Perhaps his statement that the astronauts are murdering people is actually true.
    • He does find the items belonging to a skier he sees several times in Scoggins.
  • X Meets Y: Fargo meets Twin Peaks.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Nelson, several times in the sequel.