'Nelson Tethers' Could Be Gaming's Fargo, A Wintry Black Comedy

Illustration for article titled 'Nelson Tethers' Could Be Gaming's Fargo, A Wintry Black Comedy

In the next game from the studio behind the episodic adventure games Sam & Max, Strongbad, and the Tales of Monkey Island, the fictional town of Scoggins, Minnesota is a cold play and also a bit weird.


"It's a dark comedy," the game's lead designer, Mark Darin, told Kotaku in a phone interview today. "It's a black comedy. There are definitely some moments that will make you giggle and definitely some moments that will make you tear your hair out."

The setting is a new Telltale-made town in the Grickle world, the cartoon land of oddities created by the celebrated comic artist Graham Annable. The cartoonist, who used to be a creative director at Telltale, is doing visual design and artwork for the game.

This premier Nelson Tethers adventure is set in the kind of place familiar to fans of Twin Peaks or Fargo, Darin said. There's a mystery Tethers is investigating: Why the Eraser factory in Scoggins, Minnesota got shut down. As Darins explained, the townsfolk are harboring their secrets. They're hiding something.

The game will play differently than many of Telltale's recent adventures. Players will still explore carefully drawn scenes, talking to the characters that populate them, but the puzzles they solve will be brain teasers.

"The goal of this game is to merge with a Profesor Layton type of experience of solving brain teaser puzzles with a Telltale storytelling sensibility," Darin said, referring to Nintendo and Level 5's hit DS portable puzzle adventure series. You'll walk and talk Tethers through Scoggins, then stop to solve a puzzle (see some of that in the screenshots below.)

While the Tethers gameplay style may seem close to that of the Nintendo and Level 5 Layton games, Darin believes that a distinguishing factor will be the integration of the puzzles into the fiction. "We're really trying to hard to make sure all the puzzles you encounter in the world feel connected," he said. "Sometimes Professor Layton has a disconnect between the puzzles and the world. We're trying to close that gap as much as possible."


Nelson Tethers is set for release on the iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac and WiiWare, launching on one or more of those platforms in June.

The game is part of what Telltale is calling its new "pilot program." Instead of being developed as a series, it will launch just as the pilot. Should it be well-received a season will follow, one episode per month.


No no no... Episodic releases sounds wonderful on paper, but Telltale has developed a history of recycled content which makes such a concept unappealing as a full release, individual game would be. The Homestar Runner episodes give me hope that so long as the writing is good, the repetition of environments and gags can be tolerable, but it's still not an ideal method for telling an involved story with well established characters a la the old LucasArts titles.