Elementary my dear. After almost a year and then some we finally get another Layton game in our grubby little hands. It’s sort of funny as I mentioned in the preview that Japan is on its 4th title and the series is fairly popular there and here is hoping it catches steam in North America. The title is developed by Level 5 who have been handling this small franchise called DRAGON QUEST. The thing that strikes me about The Professor Layton series is how it can be called a true successor to old-school point and click adventure games. Almost every artistic scenery is littered with interactive madness, whether it’s coins that need to be uncovered, a scene to be analyzed or your traditional brain teaser that needs to be solved. Combine the fact that the game follows a very well told story which runs at a decent 12 hours with over 150 puzzles and you have a solid title that is a must buy for gamers of any age group but especially those nostalgic for the old school adventure games.
Hint 1 – Gameplay I’m going to assume you have a vague idea of what the original title was all about, for the sake of not explaining the mechanics and minute details of the original so I’ll try and keep it more concise and short. The game hasn’t changed much from the original, actually it hasn’t changed any of the mechanics at all from the original. But that’s not really such a bad thing considering the original title was stellar. So for the sequel small refinements will suffice. The meat of the gameplay is the actual point and click story driven puzzle madness of an adventure. You’re taken to a couple of different locations where you uncover coins that you’ll use for hints (since the professor won’t give hints to freeloaders) and carefully follow an intriguing mystery that will have you mulling over countless brain teasers/puzzles. These puzzles are the real star of the show here, they’re genuine, intriguing, and just fascinating to solve. The control and navigation is simple and intuitive. You really feel like a detective at times when whipping out the stylus to solve a devious puzzle. I do like the trace paper option for those puzzles that require you to draw a fair amount; basically you can apply a tracing paper layer over the puzzle area and draw away or note down your thoughts. A nice touch that surely heightens the gameplay. It’s so refreshing to refer back to your working notes on some of the later more tough puzzles in the game. The game has you traversing some interesting places that range from an express train and its frequent stop overs to a quaint European village, a museum and even a castle. Each location has tons of areas to explore. Layton runs at a fairly brisk pace and things never seem to let up or get too intense, I must say it’s an enjoyable ride that will keep your brain active and sharp. Lastly the small inclusion of a “pet” you recieve early on in the game is a nice touch that by the adventure’s end becomes one of the longest running puzzles- no pun intended for those who know. Hint 2 – Graphics I love the look and feel of this title. There aren’t many titles that utilize such beautiful 2D art and have such wonderfully crafted locations. The art style is very reminiscent of European animation with a good dose of Japanese anime injected into it. The characters are drawn with so much personality and detail that it’s often hard not to just observe a location and its bystanders just because of how it all comes together. Just like the previous title, I was blown away by the quality of the animated (and fully voice acted) cartoon sequences thrown in to tell the tale. I wish there were more of these but I do realize the DS Cart has its limitations. Overall the presentation seems like it was given a good polish and shines the entire game. This is an adventure game with brain teasers so you cant expect a robust 3D engine to be running things, so having a talented 2D art team really suits this title and makes it one of those stylistically gorgeous DS titles. Hint 3 – Sound The fully voice acted bits are truly amazing to view and listen to on your DS, the voice acting is done well and makes you wish you wouldn’t have to read dialog boxes for the majority of the title. In terms of ambiant sound the game does its fair share with decent bits like ambiant train noises, sliding doors, etc. anyhing to compliment the tone of the game and create that special ambiance. The music for the puzzles remains almost the same chime tune. It’s definatly complimentary for those puzzles but can get on your nerves if your just hearing it and not playing the game. The other musical selections are fairly well done and have an almost french accordian feel to it, very appropriate and soothing.
Hint 4 - Replay This is the only area where the title might not fully deliver. That’s not to say the adventure is not satisfying nor is it not worth revisiting but essentially once you are done a puzzle and the solution is understood you can’t really have the same level of challenge doing it again can you? So despite the fact that there are a few puzzles with multiple answers, the game is certainly fun but once finished you aren’t going to run into any new reasons to replay it. Granted you could pull this title out after a few months and still be left guessing since you’ve long forgotten the solution but that’s the nature of almost every adventure/ brain teaser title. What you do get that will keep you hooked for a good few months is the DS puzzle of the week. Every week you can connect the game online and download to your Cart a brand new puzzle to solve. I adore this feature since some of the puzzles are quite challenging and will have you scratching your head. Granted you won’t have this feature for the entire year, but while it lasts its something to praise and enjoy. SO GO GET THIS ASAP – lest you want to miss out on this feature. Solution SO without typing too much I’ll summarize what we have. This is a definite buy to all you adventure nuts and brain teaser fans. If you are someone who is into mad casual games and prefers playing brain age or big brain academy let yourself graduate to this title and get a bit more entertainment out of your DS. It is a great ride and has tons of interesting teasers that once solved (without any outside help) give you that RARE sense of accomplishment. I did not feel a single minute was wasted during the 12 hour adventure, it was challenging and very satisfying. GO GET THIS. Gameplay 4.5 /5 Graphics 3.5 /5 Sound 3.5 /5 Replay 3 /5