APP OF THE DAY - Puzzle Agent HD (iPad)

The iPhone, iPad and other smart devices are currently making a major play for the handheld gaming market. And, when it comes to the Sony PSP, we may see the format slowly wither to stronger, cheaper opposition. However, what Nintendo does best is focus on exclusive characters and titles, tying them down so you have to own a DS to play them

One such franchise, which has been almost as successful as the Mario games of late, is Professor Layton - offering a cunning blend of adventure and puzzle gaming for all ages.

It's about to be bolstered by the second of its English language sequels and, if the previous two are anything to go by, the only way to secure a copy on launch date (or before Christmas) is to pre-order it.

Now, if only the iPad and iPhone had a game like that...

Puzzle Agent HD

Format
iPad (iPhone version also available)
Price
£3.99
Where
iTunes

When taken at face value, Puzzle Agent HD could be seen to tread a very fine line between homage and plagiarism, as it is spookily similar to the Professor Layton series of games in concept. And there is, admittedly, an unmistakeable sense of deja vu.

After all, it is an adventure game that has distinct puzzle elements. And certainly, in that, it's happy to wear its influences on its sleeve.

However, its developer, Telltale Games, is responsible for the reworking and reimagining of Sam and Max, The Secret of Monket Island, and a stack of other intelligent and funny adventures that are far more focused towards adults than their cartoony graphics otherwise suggest. And Nelson Tethers Puzzle Agent HD very much comes from the same mould.

That's the major difference between Puzzle Agent and Professor Layton, the former is for adults primarily.

The other difference is that Puzzle Agent HD is far shorter, both in storyline and quantity of in-game puzzles. But, then, it's also more the £20 cheaper, so go figure.

Telltale's obvious experience with the comedic pacing of its other titles shines through as Puzzle Agent's greatest asset. It is funny, at times scary, and the tone is set somewhere between Twin Peaks and Due South. Its graphical style is based on the Grickle series of books by Graham Annable. In short, it's fairly unique and marginal stuff.

Yet the developer pulls off the smart trick of appealing to a grander audience. So much so that you will pray for a sequel. Certainly, Nelson Tethers, the main character, deserves a second outing. Especially for the price.

Unbelievably, one of the comments on iTunes complains that £3.99 is too much. Sigh.