Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Review

posted 3/31/2008 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
Platforms: DS
Professor Layton is a bit on the deceptive side. A glance at the box and you see a cartoon game but beneath that cute cartoon veneer is a deep solid adventure game with a large collection of Mensa level puzzles. It sounds like a bit of an odd mash-up but the combination of puzzles and adventure gameplay really works and the game is something that should appeal to adult DS owners who are looking for a little brain teasing fun.

The game follows the adventures of the titular Professor Layton and his young prodigy Luke. As the game begins the duo has been summoned to the village of St. Mystere where the patriarch of the village has recently passed away. Before he died he hid a large treasure and the Professor has been brought in to find the treasure. As you search for the treasure you'll also solve a murder and uncover the major secrets that have been hidden in the sleepy hamlet.

This is actually the first game in a series of new games but there were times when I felt like I was playing a game further from a more mature franchis.This is intended as a compliment as the characters of Professor Layton and Luke feel well defined and well written, almost like they had been around the block a few times. That's not to say that the rest of the characters in the game aren't well defined but Layton and Luke just feel like old characters in a new adventure.

The game feels like an old school adventure game as you navigate around the world by clicking on the screen. You'll have to explore the city and talk to all the denizens of the town to find the treasure. The interface will be very familiar for anyone who's played an adventure game in the past as you move from static screen to static screen and try to figure out what items you can interact with on screen.


The real heart of the game is the 120 puzzles that are included on the cartridge (plus new puzzles that you'll be able to download each week). Don't let the animated graphics fool you, these puzzles are not intended for children, these puzzles are Mensa level brain teasers. How do I know this? One of my co-workers has the Menda puzzle a day calendar and the puzzles on the calendar are very similar to what Professor Layton and Luke have to solve. The puzzles will have you doing everything from re-arranging matchsticks to form figures to transporting wolves and chickens across a river. There are some puzzle styles that repeat a few times but it's more a progression of a puzzle type than seeing the puzzle over and over again. The only real problem I had with this portion of the game is that the directions for a few of the puzzles left a little bit to be desired and it was unlcear on a few of them what you were supposed to do.

If you do get stuck on a puzzle there are hints that you can buy with hint tokens that are scattered through out the game. It's a great idea but in order to find them you pixel hunt on screens which is a bit tired. Sure it's a bit of an adventure game standard but having to click around every screen in the game gets a bit old after a while. You did get an item that allows you to sense where the coins are on screen but you don't get it until after the midpoint of the game.

Being the heart of the game means that everything in the game revolves around puzzles and everything you do in the game will usually lead you to a puzzle. Talk to someone in the village? Puzzle Want to cross the street? Puzzle Want to grab a pint? Puzzle It gets almost ludicrous in parts of the game and you do almost wish that the designers had mixed things up a bit. Solving puzzles will grant you parts to a mysterious gizmo, pieces of a torn up photograph, clues to the main mystery of the game, and furniture for hotel room of Layton and Luke. The furniture part of the game is another mini-game within the game as you have to figure out which piece of furniture goes with what character.

The game has a fantastic art style that was a mix of anime with The Triplets of Belelville. While most of the game is composed of static screens there are bits of animation scattered throughout the game. The sequences are well done and servce as a break from the constant barrage of puzzles. The voice over in the game is outstanding as the major characters all sound fantastic.

I have to admit that I was a bit surprised at how good the game was. I picked the game up to help kill time while serving jury duty and the title really helped kill time. You will roll your eyes a bit at some of the situations you have to solve puzzles in but the game but outside a few occasions I found the game to be a delightful surprise.
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