There's nothing more gentlemanly than the pursuit of solving puzzles. At least that's what the Professor Layton games have taught me over the past few years. The puzzle-solving adventures have taken Layton and his apprentice Luke both far and wide, from the town of St. Mystere to the Gardens of Healing in Misthallery, from the desert oasis of Monte d'Or to the sleepy town of Folense. It's almost a safer question to ask, where has the Professor gone and not had something extraordinary happen to him? Well, in Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, the short answer is nowhere, as this time you'll be joining the Professor on a journey unlike any other before it.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy ends the latest trilogy arc for the series that ended on a sort of cliffhanger in The Miracle Mask. The previously hinted at Azran Civilization is the focal point of this new adventure, bringing Hershel Layton, his assistant Emmy Altava, and apprentice Luke Triton on a new adventure, started when his friend Professor Sycamore discovers a living mummy entombed in ice. Sycamore and Layton aren't the only ones interested in finding out what ties this person has to the Azran civilization, the clandestine group we were introduced to in The Miracle Mask, Targent, and their leader Bronev, will stop at nothing to claim the power of the Azran people for themselves. Plenty of puzzles will stand in your way as you traipse around the world, visiting a lot of interesting locales, which is a definite improvement over the snore-inducing ruins that really brought Miracle Mask to a standstill at times.
Puzzle solving of course is the name of the game, as with all Professor Layton games, and Azran Legacy doesn't disappoint in the slightest. Over 150 puzzles can be found through the course of the game, and the variety this time around is on point, the annoying math problems are kept to a minimum, and overall they are just a lot of fun this time around. A lot of them are really well hidden too. By the time I reached the end of the game I had somehow managed to miss 30 puzzles, which is a bit of an anomaly for me, as I love to search for each Hint Coin and puzzle. The mini-games that developer Level-5 likes to throw in are also a lot of fun. One involves planting flowers around a map in order to revive a dilapidated garden, another has you helping a squirrel roll a nut to a goal that gives me nightmarish flash backs of Kickle Cubicle. The last one is a dress up game with various female cast members, tasking you with finding a particular set of clothing to match their fashion impulses. All of these games serve as a great distraction when you're looking for something outside of the normal glut of puzzles, and offer hours of testing your gray matter.
The shift to mixed 3D visuals took some getting used to in Miracle Mask, but Level-5 has created a great-looking 3DS game with Azran Legacy. Each of the locales have a very distinct visual style, the art direction is as on point as ever, and it's a great counter to Miracle Mask, which got old very quickly, especially once the game decided to go underground into Azran tombs where everything got very drab. Azran Legacy on the other hand has nine different locations to visit, and you'd be hard pressed to find something that is present in each area. The audio is as enjoyable as it has ever been, with that distinct sound and excellent voice acting helping to make the world of Layton all that much more believable — although some of the accents seem a bit forced at times, and one character seems to switch between a British accent and an Irish-sounding accent, but they are minor in the grand scheme of things and do little to deter from the overall experience.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy doesn't deviate much from the previous games, and for me that's perfectly fine. They continue to offer a compelling story, fun puzzles, and some memorable characters. And if you're looking for drama, this adventure actually contains a number of surprises that most fans won't see coming, though I wish they could have elaborated a bit more on some of the revelations the games doles out near the end. But from start to finish, it was a captivating adventure that will keep fans interested in the series and hopefully attract some new players. If you haven't picked up a Layton title yet, it's never too late to start.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers. Now I'm working for a record label, a small arm of casual games in a media company along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.